A lot of myths circulate about garnishments for alimony orders. Many people hear that only child support payments can be garnished from wages, but that is not the case. While it is true that a different amount of disposable income can be garnished for child support, and that since 1988, income withholding orders are automatically a part of child support orders, this does not mean that garnishment cannot be a valuable tool for alimony payment enforcement as well.
And it is not only wages: for example, in Florida alimony garnishment case, City of Miami v. Spurrier, the court ruled that pensions could also be garnished for support, even when a statute was drafted in an attempt to prohibit such garnishments. Here’s our guide to Florida Alimony Garnishment laws.
Alimony Garnishment Laws In Florida
Florida law limits the amount that a creditor can take or seize or “garnish” from your wages to repay your debts. The Florida wage garnishment laws (also called wage attachments) generally follow the federal wage garnishment laws, but some exemptions are available in Florida which might limit a creditors rights to garnish your wages.
For the most part, creditors with judgments can only take up to 25% of your wages and only if your wages meet a minimum threshold. However, for a few types of debts, creditors can take more.
What Is a Wage Garnishment?
A wage garnishment or wage attachment is an order from a court or a government agency that is sent to your employer. It requires your employer to withhold money from your paycheck and send this money directly to your creditor. Different garnishment rules apply to different types of debt — and there are legal limits on how much of your paycheck can be garnished.
How Is Alimony Awarded In Florida?
If a couple has been married for only a short time, the court is less likely to award any type of alimony, particularly when both spouses are able to support themselves in the same way they did prior to the marriage. Marriages which have lasted longer than five years will be subject to the following factors when a determination of alimony is pending:
- Each spouse’s earning capacity
- How long the marriage has lasted
- What contributions each spouse has made to the marriage—including homemaker contributions
- Whether there is a significant disparity between the earning capacity of the spouses (For example, if one spouse has a Master’s degree and a thriving career and the other has a high school diploma and has not worked outside the home since the marriage began)
- The physical health of the spouse asking for alimony
- The mental health of the spouse asking for alimony
- The property received by each spouse in the divorce
- The debts held by each spouse following the divorce
- The standard of living of each spouse during the marriage
- The age of each spouse
- The time it will take the lower-earning spouse to acquire education or training for appropriate employment
- All services rendered by the lower-earning spouse such as child-rearing, homemaking, and building the career and/or education of the other spouse
The court is required to determine that there is no other form of alimony (than the one decided on) which is fair and reasonable, given the circumstances.
It is worth noting that “permanent” alimony will end immediately if the spouse receiving the support remarries. Also, while Florida is a no-fault divorce state, fault may be assessed and factored into the court’s decision regarding alimony.
Types Of Alimony In Florida
Current Florida laws provide for five types of alimony, which are:
- Rehabilitative alimony is paid to the lower-earning spouse for a specified period of time, at a fixed amount. Rehabilitative alimony is meant to help in the redevelopment of skills and financial independence of the spouse receiving alimony.
- Bridge-the-Gap alimony allows the receiving spouse to transition from married to single life, and can be used for such things as finding a new home or purchasing a vehicle. Bridge-the-Gap alimony can be paid in one lump sum, or for a short amount of time.
- Lump-sum alimony is sometimes ordered, however, negative tax consequences can result.
- Durational alimony is awarded for a certain period of time and is usually paid monthly or semi-monthly.
- If alimony is ordered for an indefinite period of time, it is known as permanent alimony. To alter permanent alimony, the paying spouse must petition the courts for such a change and must have a compelling reason for the change.
Exceptions To Florida Alimony Garnishment
get out of a garnishment order. It is true that there is a “Head of Household” defense to garnishment under Florida Statute §222.11, and about twenty years ago it was used to ensure that if a previous spouse who was ordered to pay alimony had dependents, the garnishment could be prevented. However, the exception was revised to provide for alimony (as well as child support and other dissolution-related judgments) regardless of head-of-household status some time ago.
If you live in Florida and are seeking a divorce, contact The Law Offices of Patrick L. Cordero PA, Attorneys at Law at (305) 445-4855 for a free no-obligation, consultation.