In Texas, when a parent skips their child support payments, the local child support agency will take action and use the various enforcement tools at its disposal. Such enforcement tools include wage garnishment, driver license suspension, credit reporting, U.S. passport denial, the intercepting of tax refunds, property liens, and the seizure of funds in the parent’s bank accounts, and this includes the funds in joint bank accounts.
It is very common for engaged couples, married couples, business partners, and even parents and children to open joint bank accounts together. If two people, whether married or not, open a bank account and one of those account holders falls behind on their child support payments, the funds in the joint bank account can be taken to pay off their child support arrears. Often, we see this when a client has remarried and opened a joint bank account with their new spouse.
Typically, a parent falls behind on child support and one day, they notice that the funds in their joint bank account have been seized for child support. Usually, this doesn’t go over well with their new spouse, especially if the funds seized came from the new spouse’s earnings.
States Can Garnish Funds from Joint Bank Accounts
You may be wondering how the state can garnish funds from a joint bank account, especially when the money may come from the account holder who does not have a child support obligation. Even though such accounts have two account holders, one of whom is not liable for a child support debt, states can legally garnish funds from joint bank accounts to satisfy a noncustodial parent’s child support obligation.
Generally speaking, for a child support agency to garnish a parent’s bank account, the child support agency must first obtain a court order, which instructs the bank to remove funds from the account holder’s bank account until the judgement is collected. In effect, the account holders may not be able to access any of the funds in their bank account until the garnishment has been satisfied completely. Some funds, however, are exempt from garnishment and these include:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- State assistance for low-income families
- Veterans benefits
- Unemployment benefits
- Student loan funds
- Public assistance funds
- Pension payments from the U.S. government
- Child support paid to the account holder that is not liable for child support
If your joint bank account has been garnished for past-due child support and you need legal assistance with the garnishment or a child support modification, we can help. To get started, contact the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC at (832) 210-1698.