If one joint account holder has a judgement against them, can the entire account be garnished?

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If one joint account holder has a judgement against them, can the entire account be garnished?

Several weeks ago my husband and I received notice of a garnishment on our checks. It was from a creditor for a loan taken out several years ago on which we fell behind. Today we received notice of a hearing to be held -1/24 regarding our bank account information. We no longer use this account and it currently has a balance of 63 cents. At the same bank, I am listed as joint account holder on my mother’s checking and savings. Tonight she tried to use her debit card and it was declined. When we reviewed the accounts on-line, the all show a zero availability. We are hoping this is a glitch in the banks computer system which has happened in the past, but my mother thinks the creditor has frozen her accounts. Can this be done legally without any notification to my mother who is the primary account holder? This is her money to which I have no claim. The only reason that I have been on her account was in case of emergencies when she was incapacitated.

Asked on January 22, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Illinois

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Since the bank account is jointly owned by you and your mother, then yes, the garnishment is legal.  In IL, once you receive communication regarding the garnishment from the court that issued the order, you typically have 30 days to file for an exemption with the court before the money is actually removed from the account. You can file an exemption stating that the money in the checking account is not yours, but your mother's. Include proof that the money is hers with a direct deposit receipt or a deposit slip and copy of her paycheck or Social Security check, etc. If the money has already been removed from the joint account and the creditor did not receive the entire amount that you owe, be prepared for another garnishment order. Additional orders can be placed by the creditor until the entire debt amount has been collected. To avoid any additional garnishments of your mother's money, she should stop depositing any money into the account. Also, you can both close the joint account and have your mother open up another account in her name only. As long as she is not financially responsible for the debt, the creditor cannot legally garnish her bank account or wages.


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