Most fair-minded people would find that the Florida’s statutes protecting income, earned from labor or services, from being garnished by a creditor are completely one-sided in favor of debtors; and would agree that the legislature should take action and fix this problem. Currently in Florida there is no limit to the amount of money earned from labor or services that one can protect or exempt from their creditors. Florida Statute 222.11 essentially provides that any money that a person earns for their labor while they concurrently provide one half of the support for any child or other dependent is exempt from garnishment by that person’s creditors, unless the wage earner has specifically agreed in writing to permit the garnishment and waive the exemption. Further, when those funds are deposited into a bank account by the debtor, the funds remain exempt for six months after deposit.
That means, if a debtor earns a million dollars a year and owes someone $50,000.00; and the person to whom the debtor owed the $50,000.00 filed suit and obtained a judgment; the judgment holder could not collect on the judgment by either garnishing the debtor’s wages or bank account as long as the money in the bank account came from earnings from the debtor’s labor or services. While each of us would likely agree that there is a legitimate State interest in having our earnings protected from creditors so as to prevent people from having to require public assistance when their wages or bank accounts are garnished, it does not seem to serve any purpose to permit people to have an unlimited exemption.
While there are certainly some circumstances that would justify not paying a creditor, and even not paying a creditor who obtains a judgment, no one can reasonably suggest that a basis for the ability not to pay should be based on the State of Florida giving a 100% exemption to all earnings that arise from an individual’s service or labor. After all, once a judgment is rendered in favor of a creditor, the courts have made the decision that a debt is due. Why is the source of the funds for payment of the judgment cause for exemption? What interest does the State of Florida have that would cause it to prevent a legitimate creditor from collecting a debt found to be owed? After all, there is no weighing of the damage being caused to the creditor by not being able to collect on its debt versus the damage being caused to the debtor if wages are garnished. Certainly, if a person earning $100,000.00 a month fails to pay the wages of an employee caring for the employer’s sick parent or child, how can the State justify exempting the wages of the person earning the $100,000.00 a month from the garnishment action brought on behalf of the caretaker earning $30,000.00 a year.
In essence, this, like numerous other issues, is the result of legislation which was not conceived with an abundance of forethought. If we are going to protect debtors from their creditors, why not limit that protection in these circumstances to incomes that are $50,000.00 or $75,000.00 a year, or those circumstances which bear some relationship to the average household income in the community? In some cases utilization of this exemption is particularly egregious as it is in addition to the exemption of other assets from being obtained to satisfy debts such as the debtor’s home, execution on most annuities, life insurance benefits, and property owned by husband and wife when the creditor of only one of them has a judgment. This combination of legislative protections makes it extremely difficult for people who are owed money in the State of Florida to collect that money even after they go to the expense of obtaining a judgment. Certainly, some of these protections need to be reviewed and revised. Maybe the clearest among those needing revision is the unlimited exemption on earnings for services and labor. If you know your State legislator, talk to them and see if maybe you can get them to address this issue.
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