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Andrea, Esq.
Andrea, Esq., Attorney
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Experience:  25 yrs. experience in family law, estates, real estate, business law, criminal defense, immigration, and employment law.
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If my wife has a civil judgement against her, can the creditor

Customer Question

If my wife has a civil judgement against her, can the creditor garnish our joint bank account or property. She was paying a settlement amount and became unemployeed 14 months ago. The law firm handling the case refused to lower the monthly payments until she gets back to work.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Ray replied 7 years ago.
Thanks for your question.Yes the creditor can go after any account with her name and ssn on it even joint accounts.She needs to convert to cash basis until this is resolved.Take her name off immediately here to prevent seizure.

They use credit reports and other means to discover account numbers.Do this asap here--definitely vulnerable and they don't notify you until they have already cleaned it out here with levy.

Edited by RayAnswers on 10/27/2009 at 5:39 PM EST
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Can they have sherrif sale on personal property. If I can prove she has no income into the checking account can the take all funds. I am in Pennsylvania.
Expert:  Ray replied 7 years ago.
Yes if the account has her name or ssn on it they will levy on entire account here.If you give me your state I will get you exemptions here.They can force sale of nonexempt property.

Edited by RayAnswers on 10/27/2009 at 7:29 PM EST
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Pennsylvania. The house and autos are in my name only. The only joint account we have is checking account.
Expert:  Ray replied 7 years ago.
Fix the bank account.Otherwise she is pretty judgment proof.Here is reference for you for your state..

"PA. is one of the very few states that does not allow wage garnishment for creditor debt. It does however allow bank account levies, although married couples holding joint accounts may be protected by TBE laws. Homestead exemption for a primary residence is $8,725 if married and only the debt(s) are single TBE laws apply; $2,775 vehicle exemption, $1,750 in trade tools, $9,650 for any other personal property that the debtor chooses to protect. Unsecured creditors do not try to attach or liquidate such things as furnishings, it is too complicated and hardly if ever profitable. If the debt pertains to a married couple and it is not a joint debt, then TBE laws will more than likely apply and there is very little a creditor can do to execute a judgment unless the debtor owns property in their name only"
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

the original judgement was for $7400 the balance is about $3400 so the way I understand what you said is the debt is small enough that they cant come after my house or cars or any personal property because the debt is only in her name and everything else is only in my name.

Expert:  Andrea, Esq. replied 7 years ago.

In Pennsylvania if a wife has a judgment against only her and not the husband and husband and wife own property as tenants by the entirety or have joint bank accounts, the creditor of the wife CANNOT take any part of the bank account, nor can he sell any asset to satisfy his judgment which has the names of both husband and wife.


Pennsylvania is unique in that a husband and wife can hold any asset as tenants by the entirety and a creditor of only spouse cannot touch those assets

Expert:  Ray replied 7 years ago.
Did you have any follow up questions here..I am not sure that I would rely on the law here.It may protect you but I would still consider getting the accoutn out of her social and anme here for your protection.

Edited by RayAnswers on 10/27/2009 at 9:36 PM EST
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Andrea, If I understand correctly, even though the writ of exicution has been sent to my bank they can not leviee against my account and they can not force sale of any of our property that is owned entirely by myself or jointly with my wife. She has been unemployeed for 14 month and has no income, so the only monies that the creditor will be able to recieve is what we can afford to send them.
Expert:  Ray replied 7 years ago.
You can argue this here.You need to get there as soon as you can to make sure they don't levy on it here.Really your exempt property under the state exemptions pretty much makes her judgment proof here.I would still cosnider taking her name off the account.I guess I am paranoid here but I know you need the funds here.
Expert:  Andrea, Esq. replied 7 years ago.

You are correct. Anything in your name alone cannot be touched (and technically in Pennsylvania it's still marital property, and still could not be touched because the judgment is not against both of you). Anything in joint names cannot be touched.



If the bank account is in both names and the judgment is only against your wife, they cannot levy on the account to satisfy their judgment. The banks have access to legal advice, if not one or two attorneys on staff and they should know the law.


As a precautionary measure, I would send a letter to one of the VP's, someone in authority, putting them on notice, so that if some clerk makes a mistake, it will be their problem, since you went the extra mile and let them know.


If, by chance, it does fall into the hands of a bank clerk and your joint account is affected, you would have a cause of action against the bank for all damages you may incur because of a mistake on the part of someone who was not informed to keep an eye on your account to be sure that no levy is placed on it.


I had a situation similar to yours where a judgment was obtained against the wife only; the Sheriff went to the marital residence and wanted to take an inventory of the wife's property for purposes of Sheriff's sale to satisfy the judgment of the creditor; I told the wife if this happens, tell the sheriff that everything in the house is jointly owned as tenants by the entirety. The Sheriff smiled at her and left, he knew he could not take any of the personal property.





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ANDREA, JD, LL.M., Taxation

Member, NY & PA Bar


DISCLAIMER: The facts stated herein are information only and are not intended, nor should be construed as legal advice or legal opinion and No Attorney-Client relationship is formed by asking questions and receiving information; laws vary from state to state and to protect your interests, you should seek local counsel



Edited by Andrea on 10/28/2009 at 1:10 AM EST
Andrea, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 12554
Experience: 25 yrs. experience in family law, estates, real estate, business law, criminal defense, immigration, and employment law.
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