Wage Garnishment: Can Debtor Claim Head of Household Exemption in Advance of Garnishment

Some people have sent me emails asking how they can assert an exemption of their salary on the basis that they are head of household. Usually, these questions are sent by debtors owe money for general consumer debts such as credit cards or car repossessions.
The readers typically want to know what they have to do to let their creditors know in advance that their wages are exempt from garnishment. Florida law does not provide a procedure to register an asset exemption in advance of a judgment, with the exception of filing for the Constitutional homestead exemption. A creditor can try to garnish wages only after the creditor gets a court judgment. When the creditor serves a writ of garnishment on the employer the debtor/employee gets a notification on which he can assert an exemption.

If the debtor believes he is head of household he states the exemption on the form and sends copies to the court and the creditor. The debtor is entitled to an expedited hearing to dissolve the garnishment at which he has to prove to the judge that he qualifies as head of household.

If a debtor is certain that he is head of a household and anticipates a judgment against him, the debtor or his attorney could write a letter to creditor asserting wage garnishment exemption and providing proof of head of household status. The advance letter could in some cases convince the creditor not to pursue wage garnishment.