So you have litigated your case in Florida and you are victorious! Now what? The judge has signed a final judgment awarding you money; however, that judgment is worth less than the paper it is written on unless you are able to collect on it. Unfortunately, all too many times, the person or company that has wronged you is “judgment proof.” That means that even if you win the lawsuit, they have no money to collect. As the saying goes, you cannot get blood from a stone. Lawsuits are expensive, so one of your main considerations when deciding whether a lawsuit is a good financial decision is to determine whether the potential defendant is judgment proof. How to make that determination is too complicated to discuss in this article and will be the subject of a future blog. For the purposes of this discussion, we will just assume that the judgment debtor, the person you want to collect from, is not judgment proof. Florida law provides a variety of instruments to apply in your attempt to collect on the judgment. Two of those main instruments are garnishment and execution. In our opinion, garnishment is one of the better options.
There are two categories of garnishment. Garnishment before judgment and garnishment after judgment. Garnishment before judgment was considered unconstitutional at one point. Even now garnishment before judgment is rarely used. For our purposes, we will be discussing garnishment after judgment. Garnishment after judgment is a continuation of the main action as a collection proceeding. It is available to every person who has recovered a money judgment. Any money due to a judgment debtor from a third person or any property in control of a third party are subject to garnishment, except the property and persons excluded by statute.
The most common types of garnishment are garnishment of wages (repeating) and garnishment of money held in a bank account. In regards to garnishment of wages, federal law limits garnishment to 25% of the disposable earnings of a person or the amount by which those earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage. Florida law provides that all disposable earnings of a head of a family that are $750 a week or less are exempt from garnishment. Disposable earnings in excess of that can only be garnished if the judgment debtor has agreed in writing.
Under Florida law, the final process to enforce a judgment solely for the payment of money shall be by execution, writ of garnishment, or other appropriate processes or proceedings. Lands and tenements, goods and chattels, equities of redemption in real and personal property, and stock in corporations are all subject to levy and sale under execution. Levy is the physical act of the county sheriff seizing the judgment debtor’s nonexempt property. The property which has been seized will then be sold at an execution sale. The proceeds from this sale are meant to partial or entirely satisfy the existing money judgment.
If you are attempting to collect on a Florida money judgment, we can help! Contact us today at (407) 426-7222 for a case evaluation to determine your rights. Our Orlando debt collection attorneys are here to help.