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Is Advanced Notice Required Prior to Garnishment

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One of the common questions we receive deals with garnishment of wages or bank accounts following a final judgment.  Typically, we are contacted by a consumer who has had their wages garnished or their bank account seized to satisfy the judgment against them.  They are understandably upset that they did not get prior notice and an opportunity to respond.  They often wonder whether the judgment creditor is acting illegally in seizing the money prior to notifiying them.

Under Florida law, a judgment creditor does NOT generally have to provide advance notice to the defendant / judgment debtor before seizing their money.  Instead, they are required to mail certain documents to you within 5 business days of the issuance of the writ of garnishment or 3 business days after serving the writ of garnishment on the garnishee, whichever is later.  This is intentional: the legislature assumed that if a person had advance notice that their money would be seized, they would simply withdraw the money from the bank account and hide it to prevent it from being seized.

If you have had money seized due to a writ of garnishment, you are still entitled to certain rights.  First, there must be a valid judgment against you.  If you were not aware of any lawsuit against you, you should first seek to have the judgment vacated or set aside.  Click here for more information about vacating or setting aside a judgment.  Second, if there is a valid judgment against you, the judgment creditor has to provide certain documentation to you, including a copy of the writ of garnishment.  If you are an individual defendant, you are also entitled to receive a notice of your rights, including the right to claim any applicable exemption and request a hearing.  Third, if you claim an exemption from garnishment and request a hearing, you are entitled to appear in Court to ask the Court to dissolve the garnishment and return the money to you.  However, don’t delay, as you may lose these rights if you do not promptly claim an exemption from garnishment and request a hearing.