Can a joint bank account be garnished if only one of the account holders has a judgement against them?

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Can a joint bank account be garnished if only one of the account holders has a judgement against them?

My girlfriend and I have been together for 3 years and recently we opened a joint checking account. We have both been divorced from our ex’s for 4 years. Her ex-husband filed for bankruptcy and one of the cards still had my girlfriend as a user. Without warning, our joint account was drained by the creditor. My income is unemployment compensation however hers is from her current job. Can they take from a joint account if we are not married, can they take it if half was unemployment income, and doesn’t she get a chance to defend herself in court, instead of an unexpected garnishment?

Asked on February 7, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A joint account can be garnished even if only one of the parties has a judgment against them; this is true whether or not they are married.  However, to the extent that you can prove which monies were yours, you may get them released.  Additionally, unemployment compensation cannot be garnished.  Right now contact the sheriff or whoever is listed on the writ of garnishment (the bank can help you out with this if need be).  The sheriff's department will then guide you through the process of how to exempt your funds.  However, don't wait; there are time limits.


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