A man called me seeking help with a wage garnishment instituted by a former business partner who had obtained a Florida money judgment related to their prior business relationship. He was employed by a company based in Washington state.
The man lived and worked in Florida. He supported his non-working spouse and minor children. The company had an office in Florida. The employer issued paychecks from the Washington office.
The creditor domesticated the judgment in Washington, and he obtained a writ of wage garnishment
which he served on the employer’s home office in Washington. The employer initially garnished the debtor’s pay check, but the debtor was able to convince a Washington state judge to dissolve the garnishment writ because the debtor’s wages were exempt under Florida law.
The creditor persevered and served a series of additional wage garnishments upon the employer, and in each instance the debtor got the employer to ignore the garnishment or a court to dissolve the writ. . The debtor asked me what he could do to stop what he believed was collection by harassment.
There are several legal decisions in various states which hold that debtors cannot export Florida exemptions to foreign states. I do not know if there is a consistent ruling in the state of Washington, but if Washington state law is consistent with other states then the local court should not be required to recognize Florida’s head of household exemption. If the employer paid the debtor from its Florida branch office the debtor probably could assert the head of household exemption in a Florida court.
As a practical matter, if the Washington judge has dissolved more than one attempted wage garnishment based upon the Florida statute exemption, and the creditor continues to serve garnishment writs upon the employer in Washington, the debtor should consider filing a separate lawsuit for wrongful garnishment in Washington.
This debtor may be fortunate that both his creditor and a foreign state judge does not understand that Florida’s exemptions are not enforceable outside of Florida. In general, a Florida debtor does not necessarily lose Florida residency when he takes a job in another state, but he may expose his wages to garnishment were he works.