Can Child Support Be Garnished from a Joint Checking Account in California?

It’s very common for couples to open a joint bank account together. By doing so, they can share funds, track expenditures, and simplify their finances. In light of that, it’s not unusual for one party to be paying child support for a child from a previous relationship but if they fall behind, the local child support collection agency has several enforcement tools at their disposal, including garnishing funds from a joint bank account.

If you share a bank account with a boyfriend or girlfriend, a fiancé or a spouse and either of you is a noncustodial parent who pays child support, know that the funds in your joint bank account are vulnerable to garnishment if the noncustodial parent in your relationship falls behind on their child support payments.

Garnishing Funds from Your Joint Bank Account

For a creditor to garnish a parent’s bank account, the creditor will first have to obtain a court order, which isn’t hard to do in the case of delinquent child support. If the court order is obtained, a notice is sent to the parent’s financial institution to remove funds from the bank account until the judgment is fulfilled. The noncustodial parent and their partner may not be able to access the funds in their account until the garnishment is satisfied.

If your bank account is garnished for child support arrears, the noncustodial parent, whether that is you or your partner, will receive a notice in the mail that details the amount of the garnishment. The notice will also give the parent a deadline for filing an appeal.

Certain funds in a bank account, whether the account is owned by the noncustodial parent or if it’s owned jointly, are exempt from garnishment, including:

  • State assistance for a needy family
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • U.S. government pension payments
  • Student loan funds
  • Public assistance funds
  • Payment for child support paid to the nonliable person on the account

While the above funds are exempt from garnishment, it’s not that simple. If you have any exempt funds deposited into your account, you will have to prove to the child support collection agency that those funds are in fact, exempt.

If someone falls behind on their child support and they are in a new relationship, the best way to shield their partner’s income and assets is to have separate bank accounts. Unless the couple has separate bank accounts, there is no guarantee that the nonliable partner’s money won’t be taken to pay the other account holder’s past-due child support.

Have questions about child support or divorce in Orange County? Contact Burch Shepard Family Law Group for assistance!