Once a creditor wins a lawsuit, it obtains a judgment against the individual owing money. The creditor will generally try to find the debtor’s money wherever they can—including bank accounts.

My Spouse has a Judgment. Can the Creditor Garnish Our Joint Bank Account?

Yes, a garnishment is judgment collected by taking money from a debtor. This includes from a paycheck or bank account, as long as it is partially or wholly owned by the debtor. Depending on state law, a creditor may be legally prohibited from seizing the bank account.

Can My Bank Account Be Seized Even If I Don’t Share a Bank Account with My Spouse?

If spouses live in a community property state, yes. Property acquired by one spouse in the marriage can be used to repay another spouse’s debt. The only exceptions are if the spouse received a gift or inheritance.

If the spouse has a separate bank account, it can be garnished to repay the spouse’s debt. It depends on state law regarding community property rules for separate bank accounts.

What If I Live in a Community Property State that Prohibits the Sharing of Debts?

In this case, a spouse’s bank account can only be garnished if the spouse with the judgment contributes to the account.

Is There Money My Spouse’s Creditors Can’t Touch in Our Joint Account?

Yes, exempted funds aren’t available for a creditor to garish. Exempted funds include:

  • Child support
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Disability benefits
  • Pension
  • Retirement plans
  • Some proceeds from student loans
  • Alimony
  • Personal injury payments
  • Worker’s compensation

How Will I Know the Money’s Been Deducted From Our Joint Account?

The bank generally sends a notice to the joint bank account holders. The bank will “freeze” the account, which prevents anyone from accessing money in the account. If some money is considered exempt, the individual will have to show documentation to obtain that money.

Do I Need a Lawyer For Help With My Account Levy?

Yes, contact a finance lawyer to determine the best way to obtain or keep your money.