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Stop Wage Garnishment in Florida

Sarah Edwards | June 30, 2023

Sarah Edwards
Legal Expert
Sarah Edwards, BS

Sarah Harris is a professional researcher and writer specializing in legal content. An Emerson College alumna, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the prestigious Boston institution.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: If you’re facing a debt lawsuit in Florida, you’ll want to understand how losing your case can impact your wages. Florida law prevents creditors from garnishing more than 25% of your disposable earnings. If you’ve been sued for debt, it’s important to respond to the case with an Answer to prevent wage garnishment. Alternatively, you can avoid wage garnishment when you settle your debt with the help of SoloSettle.

It’s not uncommon to fall behind on your bills. Most everyone has been guilty of missing a few payments. However, if you don’t get control of the situation quickly, your creditors will start hounding you — and they won’t stop until they get the money you owe.

What starts as a few missed payments can lead to a debt lawsuit. The lawsuit's outcome may be a judgment that your creditors can use to garnish your wages. Wage garnishment takes a significant chunk of your income, impacting your ability to pay for other things, like food and rent.

In this article, we’ll explain how wage garnishment works in Florida, including laws, how to prevent it, and ways to stop it once it’s started.

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The repercussions of wage garnishment in Florida

While the U.S. has federal regulations for wage garnishment, states can set their own limitations. Florida follows the national guidelines for wage garnishment but has additional protections available for people with dependents, like children. Under Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.11, the state limits creditors’ wage garnishments to the lesser of:

  • 25% of the individual’s disposable earnings.
  • The amount the individual’s disposable earnings exceed thirty times the federal minimum wage of $7.25 hourly.

However, heads of a family can ask for a special exemption from wage garnishment. Under the exemption, someone who provides more than half the support for a dependent can exclude up to $750 weekly from wage garnishment. However, they must specifically claim this exemption.

Florida law defines disposable earnings as income from labor after mandatory withholdings, such as federal taxes.

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Estelle stopped making payments on her credit card with Toi Bank. She owes $1,500 on the card, and Toi Bank sues her in Florida for the outstanding amount. After winning its case, the bank decides to garnish Estelle’s wages. Estelle takes home $1,000 weekly in her job as a voice actor. She has no dependents, so Toi Bank can garnish Estelle’s wages for 25% of her income, or $250 weekly. It’s the lesser amount of the two options since the other alternative is $782.50, or $1,000 - (30 x $7.25 hourly). Estelle is stuck with the six-week garnishment until she pays off her loan.

File a Florida claim of exemption to stop wage garnishment

Some types of income are exempt from wage garnishment in Florida, such as:

  • Head of family wages
  • Social Security benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income benefits
  • Public Assistance (welfare)
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Veterans’ benefits
  • Retirement or profit-sharing benefits or pension money
  • Life insurance benefits or case surrender value of a life insurance policy or proceeds of annuity contract.

If any of these wages are being taken from you, try filing a claim of exemption form to stop wage garnishment.

Let’s consider another example of a head of household facing wage garnishment in Florida.

Example: Kenny owes his bank $3,000 on a personal loan he used to purchase a new hot tub. Kenny stopped making payments on the hot tub when his income took a hit, and now the bank is suing him for the outstanding debt. Kenny is a single parent to his daughter, and he earns $750 weekly in his job at the local grocery store. The bank wins its lawsuit against Kenny and tries to garnish his wages. However, Kenny claims the head of family exemption, which allows him to protect up to $750 weekly from wage garnishment. Even though the bank won the lawsuit, it can’t collect any money from Kenny because his earnings don’t exceed the exemption limit.

Most states don’t allow for an exemption for a head of household earner like Florida does. If you’re a resident of Florida and a creditor wins a debt judgment against you, see whether you qualify for the head of household exemption.

Alternatives to wage garnishment in Florida

It’s essential to keep one thing in mind: Creditors can only garnish your wages if they win a debt lawsuit against you. They can’t arbitrarily reach out to your employer and ask payroll to fork over a chunk of your income without a court order. Thus, your first step is to protect yourself from legal claims.

If you receive notice of a pending debt lawsuit, don’t ignore it. You’ll need to respond to the notice with a formal legal document known as an Answer. An Answer lists why you believe you don’t owe the debt or why the lawsuit is unfair. Your Answer protects you from a default legal judgment, which your creditors will ask the judge for if you don’t resolve your debt.

Drafting and filing an Answer doesn’t have to be so complicated. Use SoloSuit’s Debt Answer template to get started.

After you file your Answer, you’ll want to resolve the debt before your court date. You can either pay it or attempt to arrange a debt settlement.

Repaying the debt in full stops any further legal activity from your creditor. Why? Because there’s nothing left to sue you for. You’ll move on from the debt, and your creditor will drop the lawsuit against you.

However, sometimes repaying the debt in full isn’t an option, especially if you don’t have a big savings account. In that case, debt settlement is likely the better alternative.

Avoid wage garnishment in Florida through debt settlement

In a debt settlement, you offer the creditor a one-time lump-sum payment for a fraction of the obligation. In exchange, it agrees to relinquish its claims to the remaining amount of the debt and drop the lawsuit.

Debt settlement is beneficial to both you and your creditor. Your creditor will receive most of the amount you owe and avoid the administrative hassles of court and wage garnishment. You’ll save money and satisfy your debt without a legal judgment in your public records.

Watch this video to learn how to settle your debt in Florida:

SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, is a tech-based approach to debt settlement. Our software helps you send and receive settlement offers until you reach an agreement with the collector. Once an agreement is reached, we’ll help you manage the settlement documentation and transfer your payment to the creditor or debt collector, helping you keep your financial information private and secure.

Don’t let debt spiral out of control

Unfortunately, there are no magic tricks that make debt disappear. You're stuck with your creditors until you repay or otherwise satisfy the obligation. If you stop making payments on your debt, you can expect creditors to up the ante on their collection efforts and possibly sue you.

Fortunately, you have options. Try to arrange a settlement or repayment before going to court. That way, you’ll avoid a legal judgment against you and wage garnishment, which will only worsen your financial problems.

If you’ve already lost a debt lawsuit and your creditor threatens to garnish your wages, see whether you qualify for the head of household exemption. If you do, you can hold on to more of your wages while you try to satisfy the debt.

Do you need help settling a debt in Florida? SoloSettle is at your service!

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