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Can Child Support Freeze My Bank Account?

Updated on July 21, 2017

Every State has a child support agency. These child support agencies have a vast amount of power enabling them to take several different collection actions against individuals that owe child support and are not paying.

One of the collection actions they may take is to freeze your bank account if you are behind on child support payments.

Child Support agencies do have the authority to freeze a bank account if you owe child support and are not paying.

Typically freezing your bank account is a collection action of last resort.

If your bank account is frozen due to a child support levy then chances are you blew off several attempts by the child support agency to work out other arrangements for you to pay your child support.

What Gives Child Support Agencies The Right To Freeze My Bank Account?

The actual legal cite is:

42 U.S.C 666 (a)(17) Which Requires Quarterly Data Matches With Financial Institutions

In addition to this federal law, each state also has its own laws and policies regarding when and if to freeze a bank account.

The child support caseworkers themselves also have a lot of discretion when to attach a bank account. For example, one caseworker may attempt to freeze your bank account after missing only one month's payment, another caseworker may not attempt to take an account for several months. The only way to be safe and protect your account is to stay in contact with your caseworker and let them know why you aren't paying your child support and when you think you can resume.

A caseworker is very unlikely to freeze the bank account of someone that is attempting to cooperate.

What These Laws Really Mean?

Basically the Federal government and individual states take child support very seriously.

For that reason they have enacted very powerful laws that make it easy to collect child support from parent’s that do not willingly pay.

The government granted child support agencies the power to attach bank accounts and use any seized funds to apply to the child support debt owed.

How Does Child Support Know I Have A Bank Account And Which Bank I Use?

Often people think it’s the custodial parent that reports the bank account information to the child support agency. Sometimes this is the case but often it is not.

Banks are in fact required to report accounts to the child support agencies. If you have a bank account it is very likely this information is available to the child support division handling your case.

Even if you are only a secondary account holder, if your name is on the account its fair game and child support agencies can attach any funds in the account.

It will be up to you to prove the money in the account does not belong to you.

Has Child Support Frozen Your Account?

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Can I Get My Money Back Once It’s Been Seized?

That depends. Once the child support agency freezes the account the bank puts a hold on any funds in the account for 25 days. This allows time for the account holder to request a hearing which is their lawful right.

If you intend to ask for the money back you must contact the child support agency within 25 days of them placing a hold on your account.

At that point you can try negotiating with the caseworker by explaining why you have not paid your child support.

This can be a difficult argument to win if you have a substantial amount of money in your account.

Also, if the money isn’t yours you will be given the opportunity to prove this.

If, for instance, all the money in the account belongs to your spouse then the child support agency will likely release the hold and put the money back into the account.

The child support debt belongs to the non-custodial parent, therefore funds in the account must belong to the debtor. A girlfriend's money, relative or other person is not obligated to surrender their funds if they are in the account when it's seized. That said it can be difficult to prove whose money belongs to who in a joint account.

The burden of proof is on the account holder and its not uncommon for them to have to submit detailed bank statements showing all deposits into the account to determine who the money actually belongs to.

Are There Exemptions?

There are certain funds that child support may not attach.

Some of these exemptions include public assistance money, veteran’s disability payments and social security disability payments.

If the funds are exempt, let the child support agency know this so they can release the funds back into your account.

Will Child Support Keep Freezing My Bank Account In The Future?

Not necessarily, bank freezes are a one shot deal.

This means, if the child support agency sends a bank freeze to your bank on Monday for $1,000 and the bank receives it on Wednesday they look at what is in the account that day and freeze those funds.

If you then deposit $1,000 the following day on Thursday these funds would not be affected by the initial withhold, child support would have to send another withhold to capture those funds.

If you contact the child support agency and work something out with them and cooperate you should be able to use your bank account in the future without fear of it being frozen.

Child Support Doesn’t Want To Freeze Your Account.

Remember this is a collection tool of last resort for child support agencies.

If you simply keep in contact with the child support agency handling your case then it’s unlikely there will ever be a need to freeze your bank account.

Hopefully you will be able to keep up with your child support payments but if for some reason you cannot let the child support agency know immediately if you are going to miss a payment.

This will prevent them from freezing your bank account.

And if you are having trouble paying your child support due to your financial situation the child support agency can also help you lower your child support to amount you can afford.

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