Can You Reverse a Wage Garnishment in Florida?

Because of the expense of filing, garnishment is often the last tool in a creditor’s or collection agency’s toolbox. They have to feel as if they have some chance of getting a reasonable amount of money, and the laws governing wage garnishment in Florida are very strict. However, summonses may not be delivered to the correct address or even delivered at all. Right now, with COVID19 raging in Florida, process servers are understandably nervous about exposures. However, courts are still open for electronic filings and teleconference hearings, so the chance of a default judgement – when the defendant is not present – is pretty good. 

Zombie Debt Comes Back

Garnishments for back taxes, child and spousal support, and student loans don’t have to obtain a judgment to garnish wages, but everyone else does. It’s not a matter of sitting on the debt for seven or even ten years, as judgments are deemed valid and collectible for twenty years after their issuance. In fact, a judgment can even be renewed on the 20-year mark. If you had debt in 2000, a creditor could go to court and hit refresh on that debt and it would follow you into your Social Security years. Or, as many find out, they can have their check garnished when the summons was delivered to an address where they had not lived in years. In fact, the plaintiff is only obligated to serve a summons to the last known address. 

Zombie debts dating back to the Recession are surfacing even now, and even time-barred debts are rising from their graves as the bottom feeders in the collection industry look for ways to reset the clock on debts that may be over a decade past being ‘live.’ If you’ve been tricked into resetting the clock on your debt, then the garnishment may unfortunately be allowed to proceed. This is why it is so important to understand which debts are time-barred. If you’re called on debt over five years old that did not result in a judgment, you need to know your rights and the law.

Can You Reverse a Wage Garnishment in Florida After the Fact?

Yes, you can. It’s going to take some legwork and gathering evidence, but you can reverse the ruling – and even get your expenses reimbursed in some cases. First, let’s talk about what happens after the judgment is issued. 

  1. After a writ of garnishment is issued, you will receive a notice telling you that wages, property, and property have been attached to pay your creditors. This notice to the defendant is basically shopping list of ingredients that help you to prepare and present your appeal to nullify the garnishment.
  2. The plaintiff also has rules that need to be strictly followed or risk having the judgment nullified – and then having to pay you. Yes, there are some fast and loose operators out there, but they don’t last long – judges will not stand for it and neither does the state bar.
  3. Certain wages and property are exempt from garnishment, such as the head of family exemption. A head of family is defined as providing more than 50 percent of the support for a child or other dependent. If you make $750 per week or less, you may be exempt from garnishment. If you make more than $750 per week, but have not agreed in writing to the garnishment of your wages, you may also claim exemption.
  4. Income from Social Security, SSI, SDI, unemployment, public assistance, pensions, worker’s compensation, and veteran’s benefits are ineligible for consideration for garnishment.
  5. Prepaid college trusts and health savings accounts are ineligible for garnishment.
  6. The cash value of a life insurance policy or the proceeds of a life insurance policy is ineligible.
  7. Garnishments must not exceed 25 percent of disposable income as determined by federal law unless that income exceeds the minimum wage by a multiplier of 30.

There are also other types of income that may not be garnished. You must proceed carefully when trying to reverse a wage garnishment in Florida. It’s better to have an attorney on your side to fight for you, but if you are determined to handle this pro se, you owe it to yourself to at least get some legal advice from the only place you can get it by Florida law – from an attorney. At Van Horn Law, your first consultation is free, and in that time we will give you our best legal advice based on your situation. You can reverse a wage garnishment in Florida, even win back compensation from the plaintiff, but it will go much easier with legal representation.

When It’s All Too Much

Of course, a garnishment might be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your debts. A lot of people who need to file bankruptcy wait until the situation is dire, and that should never be the case. A good rule of thumb is to consider what your finances would look like if your debt was substantially decreased by a reorganization or Chapter 13 bankruptcy or liquidated in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you would have enough to meet your needs without servicing all that debt and meet any obligations such as child support, then it’s time to look at bankruptcy as a way to stop all your money from flying out the window. Another key part of the bankruptcy process is credit counseling that will help you to become financially literate and teach you how to keep your finances healthy. 

Let Us Help!

Representing and advocating for yourself as a pro se defendant is tough. You might think that you can’t afford a lawyer, but with a free initial consultation Van Horn Law Group can provide you with individualized advice that can make all the difference in the outcome of your appeal. Since 2009, we have helped South Floridians renegotiate debt, file for bankruptcy, create their wills, and become financially healthy. We helped them, and we can help you. Get in touch with any of our offices in West Palm Beach, Miami, or Fort Lauderdale and schedule a consultation by phone or video conferencing app. Call us today!

Published by
Chad Van Horn

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