So maybe a few years ago you were involved in a lawsuit, be it a foreclosure, business dispute or otherwise, and, unfortunately, you lost and a money judgment was entered against you. You couldn’t satisfy the money judgment at that time, the plaintiff stopped doing anything on the case, you moved on with your life, you forgot about the lawsuit and all the stress associated with it. Then you get that dreaded notice in the mail or maybe your employer told you about it – the plaintiff is seeking to garnish your wages.
This can obviously be a stressful situation for anyone – you rely on your wages to pay your monthly bills. The good thing is there is a lot that can be done to avoid wage garnishment. It’s important to note that there are different kinds of garnishment and this article is meant solely to address attempts to garnish your wages – what’s sometimes legally described as a “Continuing writ of garnishment against salary or wages.” Attempting to garnish your savings in your bank accounts, for example, though quite similar, is different enough that it warrants its own article.
First, you have a number of procedural rights during wage garnishments. By this, I mean that the plaintiff has to follow a very strict set of procedures in order for their writ of garnishment to be valid. A brief summary of some of these procedural rights you have is: you have a right to be notified timely of the wage garnishment (within 5 business days of the writ’s issuance or 3 business days from the service on your employer, whichever is later) (Fla. Stat. Sec. 77.0041(2) (2023); you have the right to be notified by the plaintiff of some of the various defenses for the wage garnishment (Fla. Stat. Sec. 77.0041(1) (2023); you have the right to be provided by the plaintiff with a form that can be used to raise defenses for the wage garnishment (Fla. Stat. Sec. 77.0041(1) (2023); you have a right to receive a timely copy of your employer’s answer to the wage garnishment (Fla. Stat. Sec. 77.044(3) (2023); and, you have the right to respond to the wage garnishment and request it be dissolved (Fla. Stat. Sec. 77.055 (2023). If the plaintiff deviates from these procedures, even slightly, that alone can be a basis to get rid of the writ (See Little Brownie Properties, Inc. v. Wood, 328 So.3d 1049 (2021).
Assuming the plaintiff has followed these procedures, there are still a number of ways to defend the wage garnishment on the merits. A plaintiff cannot garnish all your wages and can only garnish the lesser of 25% of your wages or the amount of your wages which exceeds 30 times the federal minimum wage. Similarly, in some circumstances, your wages may be exempt from garnishment in their entirety such as if you are considered head of household (Fla. Stat. Sec. 222.11(2) or if your wages are part of a social safety net program such as welfare, social security, disability, and worker’s compensation. Additionally, you can attempt to negotiate with the plaintiff to try to fully resolve the judgment or, if necessary, file for bankruptcy which will put an immediate stop to the wage garnishment.
All of these factors are things that an experienced attorney can help you evaluate and defend a wage garnishment proceeding. If you are facing a wage garnishment, feel free to contact our office. Our firm is experienced in these kinds of issues and can provide you with the guidance and representation you need.