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Can a judgment creditor in Florida (against only husband) come and take families possessions from home?

Coconut Grove, FL |

Florida resident, married for 30 years. Strong marriage. Wife worried about judgment creditor (only against him) having home furnishings & clothes etc siezed by creditor from home.

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

There is an exemption under Florida law for assets titled as "tenancy by the entireties" meaning the asset is exempt if it is titled as owned by "husband and wife" (or similar language). However the asset must have been titled this way prior to the creditor's attempts to sue or collect. While it is strange that a creditor would try to sieze home furnishings and clothes, it may also be difficult to prove that they are titled "as husband and wife." You also get a general exemption of $1,000 ($5,000 if you do not own, but rent) that may be applicable to protect home furnishings and clothes.

This answer is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a licensed attorney in your state of residence.

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Posted

Think practical. Yes you have limited exemptions. Yes property held as husband and wife is not subject to execution and levy by a judgment holder against only one of the marriage, and it can be disputed at length whether it was so titled or not. But, practically, for a judgment creditor to enter the home they would have to post a bond, a fairly large bond usually, to have a sheriff break and enter the home to levy assets. Many judges will not sign-off on a break order like that unless specific assets clearly owned by the husband alone can be identified in the request, and maybe not even then. Getting a break order can be very costly. Furthermore, the judgment creditor will be at the bad end of a lawsuit if they mistakenly, purposefully, or otherwise remove assets belong to the wife, children, or possibly others. In over 30 years of practice, I have not heard of such a judgment creditor entering the home of a married couple. Had the judgment been against both, that would be different.

The law is complicated and although the facts expressed may seem to be all that is relevant, there may be many other important facts to consider. Also, the law is constantly undergoing change, so what may be correct today, may not be accurate tomorrow. Only a full consultation with an attorney experienced or knowledgeable in the specific legal subject matter is likely to result in the optimal course of action. My practice has entailed more than a 30 year span of many real estate, personal property, and bankruptcy issues. Find out more about me at: FloridaPropertyLitigation.com.

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Posted

The practical answer is just as Attorney Russo stated it. I would, however, observe as follows as Coconut Grove is one of those areas where the well-to-do live in close proximity to those who are not-so-well-to-do.

If you live in a 7,000 square foot home worth $1.5 million, a creditor is likely to do a lot more to collect its judgment than if you live in one of the shotgun shacks on Grand Avenue between US 1 and Douglas Road.

A person living in a million dollar home may be exprected to have a closet full of 20 pairs of men's custom cowboy boots worth $500 (each used), and 15 men's Italian suits worth $1,000 each (used). This will be a lot more attractive to a creditor trying to collect, than if you rent your home and earn $24,000 per year.

As for furnishings, it is a good bet that the creditor will not try to levy on it, as it is highly likely that all of your home's contents was acquired during your marriage by both of you, making them immune from your creditor's claim.

Good Luck.

JWS

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