Can They Take Child Support From a Joint Account?

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Even though a financial account, such as a savings or checking account, is held jointly by two parties and only one is liable for delinquent child support, the state may garnish funds from the joint account to satisfy the delinquency. A few exemptions for such a garnishment exist, allowing some funds to remain accessible to the account owners.

Financial Account Garnishments

To garnish a financial account, a creditor must obtain a court order. This order is served on the defendant's financial institution instructing it to remove funds from the account, now and in the future, until the judgment won by the creditor is fulfilled. You may not access any funds in the account until the garnishment has been fulfilled.

Notice of Garnishment

When your financial account is garnished, you will receive a notice in the mail detailing the amount. This notice also provides a date or deadline for appealing the garnishment. You must file your appeal with the court that granted the garnishment, as well as mail a copy of the appeal to the plaintiff. You may appeal based on a claim that the charge of non-payment of child support is not valid.

Exempt Funds

Certain funds in an account, whether singly or jointly held, are exempt from a garnishment of any type, including delinquent child support. Exempt funds include state assistance for needy families, Supplemental Security Income, veterans benefits, unemployment payments, U.S. government pension payments, student loan funds and other public assistance funds. Also, if funds in the account come from child support paid to the nonliable account holder, those funds are exempt from garnishment. You must prove that the funds are exempt.

Joint Accounts

When the state pursues a garnishment against a financial account, it requests from the bank the names and Social Security numbers of the account holders. Even if the state finds that the account is jointly held and the child support is owed by only one of the account holders, the state cannot sort out what funds in the account belong to the delinquent and which belong to the nonliable party. The state assumes that all funds in the joint account belong to the person who owes child support. The state sends the notice of garnishment to the delinquent account holder and not the nonliable party, meaning the other party must learn of the garnishment through the delinquent account holder.

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