Can Legal Garnishments Be Reversed or Stopped in Florida?
Nightmare Scenario #2: You open the envelope containing your paycheck. Instead of the expected amount, you find that you have been paid 25% less than your typical wage.
Are you a victim of fraud? Have criminals hacked your bank account? Perhaps this is a case of identity theft?
No–you are a victim of legal garnishment.
In a previous blog post, I explained how a writ of garnishment is obtained by a debt collector, and how this can result in a zero bank balance.
In addition to removing money from your bank account without your knowledge, legal garnishment can also result in up to a 25% reduction in your paycheck–every paycheck–until the judgment is satisfied.
When clients arrive in my office asking if a legal garnishment can be “undone”, I answer with a “maybe”, and ask a series of specific questions to determine the likelihood. Here are some examples of situations that might result in a full or partial reduction/reversal of garnishment:
- The funds being garnished are Social Security, Disability or Veterans’ benefits
- The funds being garnished are Unemployment or Workers’ compensation
- The funds being garnished are wages earned by the “head of household”
- The judgment that resulted in the garnishment can be vacated
- The amount of the garnishment can be reduced by negotiation
These are only a few examples of situations that could result in the reversal of legal garnishment in Florida. Many of these examples are “claims of exemption.” A consumer must file for a claim of exemption within 20 days of the notification of garnishment. The filing will result in a hearing that will stop the garnishment if the court rules that the consumer does qualify for the claim of exemption. If the court rules in the consumer’s favor, money previously seized will be returned. This downloadable form for Claim of Exemption and Request for Hearing for Miami-Dade County has been provided by the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts website.
The final example, voiding or vacating the original default judgment, is a bit more involved, and refers to the original judgment obtained by the debt collector. When clients meet with me about stopping or reversing a legal garnishment, in addition to exploring possible claims of exemption, I also explore the possibility that the original judgment was obtained improperly, and could be vacated with a motion for relief. In this case, not only would the garnishment end and the client’s money be returned, but the judgment would be dismissed, and the consumer would have an opportunity to get out of the debt entirely. A local consumer attorney would be able to discuss and review your original default judgment for improper procedure (i.e. sewer service, improper notice, a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violation, etc).
Please keep these two things in mind:
- Even if you qualify for a claim of exemption, or other relief, your wages will continue to be garnished and placed in a escrow account while you wait for the hearing. (*Note – calling the judge’s assistant and asking for a hearing will speed up the process, and may give you a more convenient date).
- After the hearing, you must wait for the plaintiff (the debt collector) to complete the steps required to return your money to you. (Or, if you go to the hearing prepared with a proposed order you can greatly speed up the process).
A local attorney experienced in stopping or reversing garnishment should be able to assist you every step of the way in your quest to stop or dissolve a legal garnishment, by:
- reviewing your case for possible exemptions or other relief
- representing you at the hearing
- speeding the process of your return of funds, if your case is successful
- negotiating a better deal, if you don’t have exemptions
[photo credit: sxc.hu/sgback]