As a general rule, assets of a spouse after judgment is entered against you will likely be protected from your creditors if the judgment is entered only against you, not your spouse. After Final Judgment is entered the judgment holder, usually a bank or lender, must first identify what property you may have to satisfy the debt. This typically starts with your completing a sworn 1.977, Fact Information Sheet form as ordered by the court. When your assets are identified the judgment holder can seek to collect on the judgment by garnishing your wages or bank accounts, or seizing property that is not protected by Florida’s exemptions. Oftentimes it is harder to collect on a judgment than it is to win the judgment and Florida’s protections offered to property owned jointly by husband and wife contributes to the frustration creditors.
In Florida your spouse’s property, whether it is money in the bank, pension, retirement accounts, personal property or real property, is separate from yours and cannot be taken by a judgment creditor to satisfy your debt. However, the rules of discovery may require you and your spouse to provide the judgment holders information about both your property if they can prove that you have transferred property that would otherwise be available to satisfy the judgment fraudenlty or to delay, hinder or defraud creditors. Such predicate is typically proven through depositions and interrogatories. Even if you have to tell the judgment holder what property your spouse owns this simple disclosure does not mean the bank or creditor can seize your husband or wife’s separate property. Further, even if you own property jointly with your wife it may be protected by what is called “tenants by the entirety” if you each own the property or account 50/50; you acquired the property at the same time; you and your spouse have ownership under the same title; and you were married at the time you both acquired the property.
To protect your spouse’s property from your creditors it is best not to co-mingle ownership of the property. Keep separate bank accounts and do not title property jointly unless all of the above requirements necessary to establish tenants by the entireties protection are in place. If judgment has been entered against you or if you have been threatened with a lawsuit do not transfer property to a relative without just compensation for the transfer and made sure any transfers of property are for a legitimate business or financial purpose.
If Final Judgment has been entered against you Matthew C. Bothwell, Esq. is here to help. Please contact us for your FREE CONSULTATION today.