Congratulations! You were awarded a judgment against the defendant in your lawsuit, all appeals are exhausted, and the judgment is now final. In theory, once the judgment is final, the defendant pays the judgment and the matter is resolved. This, however, rarely happens and additional steps are needed in order to obtain the monies owed.
Bank Garnishment in Florida
One way to collect the judgment is through garnishing the debtor’s bank account by the issuance and service of a “Writ of Garnishment.” The Writ allows a bank to freeze the debtor’s assets in its control and creates a lien upon the debt or property garnished at the time of service of the Writ. Below are the steps needed to take under Florida Statutes:
- Provide the location and name of the debtor’s bank;
- File a Motion for Garnishment and Writ of Garnishment Order with the Clerk of Court; and,
- Once the Order is issued, serve the Writ of Garnishment on the debtor’s bank (the “garnishee”) by a process server.
The garnishee must then file an answer within twenty (20) calendar days of being served, stating what sum and what tangible or intangible personal property of the debtor it has or had in its possession or control at the time of filing the answer. Failure to file an answer may entitle the creditor to judgment against the garnishee.
Notice to Judgment Debtor
The creditor must provide notice to the debtor within five (5) business days after the Writ is issued or three (3) business days after the Writ is served, whichever is later. The notice must provide a copy of the Writ of Garnishment, Motion for Writ of Garnishment, and, if the debtor is an individual, the “Notice to Defendant.”
The debtor then has twenty (20) days from the receipt of the notice to file a “Claim of Exemption and Request for Hearing” with the Clerk of Court. The debtor must also mail or hand-deliver a copy of the Claim of Exemption to the creditor and the garnishee. Failure to give the appropriate notice will void the garnishment.
Service of Garnishee’s Answer
Within five (5) days after service of the garnishee’s answer or after the time period for the garnishee’s answer has expired, the creditor must serve a copy of the garnishee’s answer and a notice advising the debtor that he/she must move to dissolve the Writ of Garnishment within twenty (20) days, if any allegation in the Motion for Writ of Garnishment is untrue.
Exemption from Garnishment
If an individual debtor files a Claim of Exemption, the creditor has eight (8) business days from receipt by hand delivery or fourteen (14) business days from receipt by mail to file an objection. The court will schedule a hearing to resolve the underlying issues. The creditor must object to the debtor’s exemption or the writ of garnishment will be dissolved.
As with any litigation, there are many variables to each particular situation. If you have questions regarding bank garnishments or collecting a judgment, please contact me at alexander.howell@henlaw or by phone at 239-344-1327.