An attorney called me about one of their clients who is being forced to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy because his wages were garnished. The attorney said that the client supported an adult child living at home. The attorney asked whether the judge properly denied the debtor’s head of household wage exemption and whether wages held in the debtor’s bank account would be part of the bankruptcy estate. The debtor had represented himself in a state court hearing on the exemption and garnishment.
This debtor should be entitled to a wage garnishment exemption if he supports his child regardless of whether the child is an adult or minor. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the wage exemption statute is liberally construed in the debtor’s favor. The statute defines a head of household as anyone who provides more than one-half of the support of a “child.” The Supreme Court pointed out that the statute does not restrict or define the age of a child, nor does the statute refer to a minor in lieu of a child.
This attorney’s client probably was unable to cite the important Supreme Court decisions when he attempted to represent himself in court. This client will pay more to file bankruptcy than they would have paid to have an attorney accompany them to the garnishment hearing.