I recently had a non-resident client whose salary was garnished by a Florida court because his employer had an office in Florida and he had a judgment entered against him in Florida. We timely challenged the garnishment by filing a head of household claim of exemption. However, at the hearing on same, opposing counsel argued that the Florida head of household exemption does not apply to non-residents. The court disagreed reasoning that if a creditor can use Florida’s garnishment statute against a non-resident, then a non-resident should be able to use the exemption set forth in the same statute as a defense and dissolved the writ of garnishment.
The creditor in that case appealed and we are still awaiting a decision, however, it caused me to research the issue. In addition, I just read a blog where the writer claims that a non-resident cannot use the head of household exemption in Florida and after finishing the appeal, I completely disagree.
Florida Statutes §222.11 sets forth the head of household exemption that exempts wages and salary from garnishment where the debtor provides more than one-half of the support of a dependent. There is no restriction in that statute limiting the exemption to residents of Florida. Florida Statutes §222.12 provided the procedure to use the exemption and, prior to 1993, included language limiting the exemption set forth in Florida Statutes §222.11 to “the head of a family residing in this state.” However, after 1993, the language was removed and in fact, Florida Statutes §222.12 was recently repealed altogether. Now, the only method by which a debtor may claim the household exemption is through the garnishment statute which has no language limiting the exemption to Florida residents.