Protection from Creditors
Authored By: Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida
Is my home protected from creditors?
If you own a home, it is protected from all creditors except those holding a mortgage or lien. Your home and up to one-half acre of land is exempt from any forced sale if you live in an incorporated area. Your home and up to 160 acres are exempt if you live in an unincorporated area. If you cannot pay your mortgage, the mortgage company may proceed with a foreclosure action. If there are liens (tax liens, contractor liens) against the home, those creditors also may proceed with a foreclosure action.
Is my personal property safe from creditors?
Up to $1,000 of your personal property is exempt from being taken by a creditor. If you do not own a home, then up to $4,000 of your personal property is exempt. You may choose what property you keep. However, if the property was given as security for a loan, it probably will not be protected from that one creditor. The exemption can include money in the bank. If a creditor tries to take your personal property, immediately file a Notice of Exemption with the court, sheriff and the creditor (See sample Claim of Exemption at the end of this brochure).
Wages of the head of family are exempt from garnishment if you take home $750 per week or less. Even if your take home pay is more than $750 per week, it is still exempt if you have not agreed to allow your wages to be taken to pay the debt. You are a head of family if you reside in Florida and you provide more than one-half of the support for a child or other dependent.
Are my wages protected from creditors?
If you do not qualify as head of family, you still have protection. If your take home pay is $217.50 or less per week, your wages are exempt. If you take home more than $217.50 per week, the creditor is limited to taking the lesser of 25% of your net wages or the difference between your net wages and $217.50 per week until the judgment is paid in full.
Wages in a bank account that belong to a head of household are protected even when the wages are mixed with money from other sources.
If a creditor garnishes your wages, immediately file a Claim of Exemption with the court, your employer and the creditor (see sample Claim of Exemption at the end of brochure).
Are Social Security and Other Benefits protected?
Income from Social Security, workers compensation, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, VA benefits and retirement benefits are exempt from garnishment. Even when these benefits are in a bank account they are still exempt.
If a creditor garnishes your bank account, immediately file a Claim of Exemption with the court, your bank and the creditor (see sample Notice of Exemption at the end of brochure).
Is my vehicle protected from creditors?
Your vehicle is exempt up to $1,000. This means that your vehicle cannot be taken to satisfy a judgment unless the value of the car, less the amount of any loan on the car, is greater than $1,000. File a Claim of exemption with the court, sheriff and creditor (see Claim of Exemption at the end of this brochure).
What about other property or income?
All professionally prescribed health aids used by you or your dependents are exempt from creditors.
If property is owned by husband and wife and the judgment is against only one of them, the property is protected. The debtor and/or the spouse must file a Claim of Exemption with the court, sheriff and creditor (see Claim of Exemption at the end of this brochure).
What is the procedure for claiming the exemption?
File a written Claim of Exemption (see sample at end of brochure) with the court describing the reason the money or property is exempt. Also, send a copy to the attorney for the creditor (or if there is no attorney to the creditor) and a copy to the person holding your money or property. The creditor has 3 business days (8 business days if you mail it to the creditor) to file an objection to your claim. If the creditor contests your exemption the court will promptly set a hearing. If the creditor does not contest your exemption, the court will stop the garnishment.
Updated: May 8, 2017