The ability of a creditor to garnish a spouse’s bank account depends on the nature of the debt and the state you live in. In most states, an account that’s held solely in your spouse’s name can’t be garnished if the debt is in your name only and was not used for anything that benefited her. Joint accounts may be a different story, however, and creditors can occasionally persuade a judge to allow them access to a spouse’s account.
Creditors win judgments against those named as a defendant, but these judgments don't allow creditors to move on to target other family members if the bills remain uncollectable otherwise. As a result, if the account the judgment was secured against is only in your name, accounts that your spouse holds in her own name are safe in most cases. It’s particularly difficult to garnish a spouse’s account if she’s held it since before you were married and if she’s the only one who contributes to it.
Community Property States
In a community property state like California, you and your spouse legally share assets and debts either of you incur during your marriage, with the exception of items acquired via gift or inheritance. That means a creditor may be able to garnish both joint accounts and an account the spouse holds separately. This depends on the specific state law regarding spousal debt. In California, creditors can generally garnish your spouse’s wages for a debt that you incurred when you were married. However, Texas is a community property state that does not allow creditors to garnish your account for your spouse’s debt if it is not a shared account.
Common Law States
Most common law states keep the property of each spouse separate, unless the debt was incurred jointly or benefited both spouses. This not only shields a spouse’s bank account in most cases, it has an impact on joint accounts as well. In some common law states, creditors can garnish joint accounts for a debt held by only one spouse, but can only attach to half the funds in the account, or only to funds attributable to the debtor. In others, a debt by one spouse that didn’t benefit the other can’t be garnished via a joint account at all.
Some scenarios may allow creditors to access a spouse’s account even in states where it’s prohibited. For example, if you transfer all of your assets into a joint account or an account held solely in your spouse's name, a creditor may be able to convince a judge that the transfer was designed solely to shield your resources from a lawfully obtained legal order. In that scenario, a judge may rule that a creditor may seize funds from that account as well.
Can a Creditor Garnish My Bank Account?
Can a Creditor Garnish My Bank Account?. ... Can a Creditor Garnish a Spouse's Bank Account? When a creditor obtains a civil...
New York State Judgment Laws
The State of New York has laws regarding judgments for debt. ... New York State Divorce Laws. The spouse who initiates a...
How to Protect a Bank Account From Judgement
How to Protect a Bank Account From Judgement. ... How Do I Know If I Have a Judgment on My Bank Account?...
How to Divide the Assets in a Divorce
A major task in a majority of divorce cases is dividing up assets you and your spouse ... state in regard to...
Can a Joint Checking Account Be Garnished?
Can My Husband's Account Be Garnished for a Judgment Against Me? When you get married, ... How to Get a Garnishment Removed...
Can My Wages Be Garnished for My Husband's Debt?
Can Your Spouse's Income Be Garnished When You Are Married? ... Is My Husband's Debt Mine? Can They Garnish My Husband's Wages?