A Florida writ of garnishment is a tool that a creditor uses to seize money that a third party, such as a bank, owes to you. In addition to bank accounts, the creditor can use the writ of garnishment to seize wages and rent, for example. In Florida, a writ of garnishment is how a creditor with a judgment against you gets paid on their judgment.
Here’s how it works. The creditor that obtained a judgment against you asks the Court to issue a Writ of Garnishment directed to a garnishee. The creditor, or garnishor, is then legally granted a sort of lien on whatever property you have that is owned by the third-party garnishee (like your money that is held by your bank). Once the writ of garnishment is issued, the garnishee (the bank) and the debtor (that’s you) are given a chance to respond, claim exemptions, and otherwise try to dissolve the garnishment.
The law governing a Florida writ of garnishment is Chapter 77 of the Florida statutes. The statute details how a creditor asks a court to issue the writ, what notices the creditor must provide you, and what defenses you have to defend against the writ of garnishment.
These writ of garnishment procedures detailed by Chapter 77 are very strict and detailed. The law includes specific time requirements that the creditor must follow in order to successfully garnish your accounts. For example, the creditor must give you a copy of its Motion for Writ of Garnishment either within five days after issuing the writ, or within three days of serving the writ onto the garnishee, whatever is later. It must also give you a Claim of Exemption form and a copy of the Writ of Garnishment issued by the Court.
Claim of Exemption
One of the documents that the creditor must give you is called the Claim of Exemption form. This form is very important, because it lets you assert a statutory exemption that applies to whatever is being garnished. For example, if you qualify for the head of household exemption, then you could use the Claim of Exemption to assert that exemption and dissolve the writ of garnishment. Once you file the claim of exemption, you’ll have a hearing with the judge where you can explain why the exemption applies.
If you file a claim of exemption, watch the calender: the creditor only has three days from the time you give them a copy of the claim of exemption to contest it. And they have to contest it with a statement under oath. If they don’t strictly comply with the statutory requirements, you can include their failure to comply in a motion to dissolve the garnishment.
There are many other exemptions available to debtors as well, and some of these are not even listed on the Claim of Exemption form that the creditor must provide you.
The key thing to note is that these exemptions are not automatic. If an exemption applies to you, you must assert it property by filing the claim or a motion to dissolve the garnishment. Eventually you may need to present evidence that you qualify for the exemption.
What You Can Do Next
If your bank account or wages have been garnished through a Florida Writ of Garnishment, you may be able to get the garnishment dissolved. The law sets many strict requirements for garnishment, and if the creditor does not strictly follow the law then the garnishment can be dissolved. If you’d like help fighting a garnishment and then settling your account with the creditor, give me a call at (407) 476-6047 or contact me here.