final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Walton County. Jeffrey E.
S. Rushing and Travis M. Morock of Carver, Darden, Koretzky,
Tessier, Finn, Blossman & Areaux, LLC, for Appellant.
appearance for Appellees.
Hancock Whitney Bank, appeals the trial court's nonfinal
amended order granting Appellee Ashley M. Adams's claim
of exemption from garnishment.[*] We reverse because Mrs.
failed to prove her entitlement to a statutory exemption.
October 2018, the trial court entered a final deficiency
judgment in favor of Appellant, adjudging that it was
entitled to recover from Appellees John J. Adams and Mrs.
Adams the deficiency balance of $44,176.04 that remained due
and owing under a final judgment of foreclosure. In March
2019, Appellant filed a writ of garnishment to Bank of
America Corporation, which filed an answer representing that
Mrs. Adams had $230.41 in a savings account and $5,480.75 in
a checking account. Mrs. Adams filed a claim of exemption,
claiming exemption from garnishment under four categories:
(1) head of family wages—providing more than half of
the support for a child or other dependent and having net
earnings of more than $750 per week, but not having agreed in
writing to wage garnishment; (2) reemployment assistance or
unemployment compensation; (3) retirement or profit-sharing
benefits or pension money; and (4) other—IRS refund.
Appellant filed the affidavit of its vice president, who
attested that Appellant has not received any payments to
satisfy or reduce the deficiency judgment and the funds to be
garnished are not exempt because they are not traceable to a
Adams appeared pro se at the evidentiary hearing on
her claim of exemption. When she took the stand, the trial
court asked her about the status of her divorce proceeding
and she indicated that it had not been finalized and she and
Mr. Adams had been separated for three years. With regard to
her claims of exemption, Mrs. Adams explained that their
minor children primarily reside with her and she provides
about 75-80% of the financial support for them; she attends
school full-time; and "some of those funds" in her
account are from a loan she took out for school, an IRS
refund, and an IRA withdrawal because she is not receiving
any child support. Mrs. Adams is supposed to receive $1,259
per month in court-ordered child support, but Mr. Adams has
not paid any of it; he has only paid a purge amount for back
child support in August 2018. Mrs. Adams opened the Bank of
America savings account for the purge amount Mr. Adams wired
into it. Mrs. Adams deposits into the Bank of America
checking account her wages and all other monies she receives,
including money she gets from her family. Mrs. Adams works on
an as-needed basis, with limited hours, and earns $28 per
hour. She took out an unsubsidized federal loan in the amount
of $2,600, dated February 11, 2019, that she deposited into
her checking account and uses to pay her mortgage. She also
deposited into the checking account an IRA check for
$2,910.44 on March 12, 2019, and an IRS refund check for
$5,555 around mid-March of 2019. She is not receiving
unemployment benefits yet.
argued that Mrs. Adams failed to meet her burden of proving
the claimed exemptions and provided only self-serving
testimony and some documentary evidence that showed she
commingled non-exempt funds such as the IRS refund and
student loan with any exempt funds and "[t]here's
been no statements provided. There's been no tracing of
the funds." Mrs. Adams replied that she did not know she
needed to bring statements and added, "if you take away
the IRS check that went in there, I had — it was my
balance that was — that was frozen on that day. I have
like $400 left in there. That's my income." The
court stated, "I'm familiar. I have an order on my
desk right now for back support which is a six-figure amount.
. . ." The court then announced its ruling as follows:
I'm going to sustain the head of household objection
— exemption for Mrs. Adams. I'm familiar with
— with the circumstances and, except for that one
purge, which was actually proceeds from — from an
insurance policy, as I recall — or partially —
. . . it was a lost payment back, but it was — it was
designated to be back child support she hadn't received.
She proved to me she had not been receiving any support or
any substantial support in accordance with the earlier
ruling. And notwithstanding the fact that — that she
didn't differentiate between those, I'm satisfied
that if you — if you looked at the continuum of
— of the years, just having [p]resided over this
matter myself for over two years now, ...