Cinderella’s Sad Story of Garnishment

Once upon a time, Cinderella had a money judgment entered against her.  She thought nothing of it at the time because she could no more pay her debt than go to the ball.  Then along came her Fairy Godmother and next thing you know, Cinderella had won the Prince Charming lottery. Right in the middle of happily ever after, a creditor garnished Cinderella’s newfound wealth.  Her brand new great big mound of money was swept clean from her account, just like that—poof!—it was gone.  “Surely you would not take my good fortune from me!” Cinderella protested. “The judgment is good for 20 years,” replied the creditor.  And thus Cinderella went from rags to riches and back to rags again.   A Money Judgment is just a piece of paper, EXCEPT a creditor may watch your bank account over the next 20 YEARS.  If your credit score goes up, that creditor might reappear.  With a Money Judgment, he may get your car, your real estate (except homestead), or garnish your bank account without prior notice to you, freezing any good fortune you come into. Everybody should pay their debts; however, certain incomes are exempt to prevent a choice between paying the […] Read More

Exempt Incomes from Money Judgments

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.  That is the idea behind Social Security, disability, pensions, and income that provides more than one-half the support for dependant or minor children—those are exempt incomes from money judgments. Small Claims Court can be a lot bigger than you think.  Even though it only deals with matters less than $5,000, that can be a big claim if you have limited means. Everybody should pay their debts, but you should not have to decide whether to buy food or pay the electric bill.  Thus there are certain incomes that are exempt from money judgments. The key to an exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible for a collection exemption does not mean you automatically receive it.  Exemptions have to be filed within 20 days of the Notice of Garnishment that you receive after your account has been frozen. A Judgment is bad, but ignoring it is worse.  Seek competent legal advice to learn more about collection exemptions.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions and how to claim them.) Read More

Social Security & Small Claims Court

August 15, 1953 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, providing financial assistance for the elderly, the blind, the disabled, and the unemployed.  This year the Social Security Administration projects that over 59 million Americans will receive almost $863 billion in Social Security benefits…none of that is meant to be used to pay off a credit card debt in Small Claims Court. Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in your car.  Therefore do not promise your Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. If you are living off Social Security, you may be able to claim those benefits as exempt from a debt collection judgment.  The key to that exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible does not mean you automatically get it. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions and how to claim them.)  Small Claims Court is not necessarily easy, but good legal advice may give you […] Read More

The Way Garnishment Works

The way garnishment works is first they take your money, THEN they tell you they have taken it.  You wake up one day and whatever you owe them, that money got disappeared.  Later when you receive that notice of garnishment, they also send you a form to file for exemption. If you are head of household supplying more than one-half the income to support a minor child, that income is eligible for exemption. If your income comes entirely from Social Security or a pension fund, that income is eligible for exemption. People have options.  Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in your car—that is why certain incomes are eligible for exemption.  You do not have to promise your Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions and how to claim them.)  St. Johns Legal Aid is located at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine and they are open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 […] Read More

Garnishment: Paying for Parsley

Parsley does not usually come a la carte; however, in Money Judgments, you may pay for garnishment.  The bad news about garnishment is that it happens before you know it, and the good news is that you could be eligible for an exemption…but you have to claim it. Garnishment is collection of a Monetary Judgment by deducting funds from a your bank account or wages.   Normally the waiter does not warn you about garnishment—neither does anybody else.  With a Money Judgment, the opposition can file a Motion for a Writ of Garnishment, which means that at any inopportune time, they can dip into your bank account, or take a portion of your wages.  You do not get notice that it is going to happen until after it happens, then the attorney will send you an exemption form. Everybody should pay their debts; however, certain incomes are exempt to prevent a choice between paying the electric bill or buying food.  Exempt incomes include: 1. Income of head of household at a certain level 2. Social Security benefits 3. Pension 4. Disability The key to that exemption is that you have to claim it. An exemption is like your luggage going around […] Read More