Bank Account Garnishment Issues in Minnesota

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Regardless how a case reaches the garnishment stage, having your bank account frozen is a very unsettling feeling. Learning about how garnishment works, and how cases reach the garnishment stage, can help you understand what is going on.

Was a judgment issued?

In most cases, garnishment occurs after a judgment has been issued. You can either go to a courthouse, or check the Minnesota Courts public records online to see if a judgment has been issued (for Minnesota residents only).

Minnesota does have a pre-judgment garnishment statute. The majority of garnishments, however, occur after a judgment has been issued.

If a judgment has been issued, the court made a decision in your case. The only way to undue a judgment is to make a motion to vacate, which usually requires the assistance of an attorney. A motion to vacate does not win the case, but sets aside the judgment and restarts the case, allowing a person to defend the case on the merits.

Were you ever served?

In order to have a judgment against you, you must be served with a summons and complaint.

In some cases, a judgment is issued even though an individual was never served with the lawsuit. In many cases, a spouse or another person residing at the house was served and never told the actual person being sued. If you go to the courthouse in your county, you can check the affidavit of service (attached to the summons and complaint) to see who was served.

If you were never served with the summons and complaint, contact an attorney about making a motion to vacate.

Did you receive an exemption notice?

In Minnesota, certain types of income are exempt from a garnishment. For example, many forms of government benefits are exempt from garnishment. Most exemption notices specifically list the types of income that are exempt, so be sure to look carefully.

If you did not receive an exemption notice, you should contact the creditor and request that they send you a form. If you have any concerns, you should contact an attorney.

Is it a joint account?

The Minnesota Supreme Court, recently discussed garnishing joint accounts and made three important holdings:

  1. A judgment creditor may serve a garnishment summons on a garnishee, attaching funds in a joint account to satisfy the debt of an account holder, even though not all of the account holders are judgment debtors.
  2. Account holders bear the burden of establishing net contributions to a joint account during a garnishment proceeding.
  3. A judgment debtor is initially, but rebuttably, presumed to own all of the funds in a joint account, and if the presumption is not rebutted, all of the funds in a joint account are subject to garnishment.

Joint accounts present special problems (and special solutions); if you have questions about the garnishment of a joint account, you should contact a consumer lawyer.