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Bank Executions (also known as Financial Institution Executions)

April 2020

Has your money been “frozen” or taken out of your bank account to pay a debt? Find out what you can do.

¿Le han “congelado” su dinero o se lo han tomado de su cuenta bancaria para pagar una deuda? Entérese de los que usted puede hacer.

    Can money be taken out of my bank account if I owe money?

    Yes, but only if the person or company you owe money to (known as a creditor) sues you in court, wins, and gets a court order (also called a judgment) against you. If you don’t pay the court order, the creditor can ask the court for permission to take money from your bank or credit union accounts. This is called a bank execution (or financial institution execution), and it allows your bank to take money from your account to pay back all or some of your debt to the creditor.

    If possible, sign up for email alerts on any lawsuits you are involved in. That way, if a creditor gets a bank execution, you will find out right away. You can look up your case on the Judicial Branch website at http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/PartySearch.aspx or https://www.jud2.ct.gov/Small_Claims/sc_SearchParty.asp (for some older small claims cases.

    What happens if the creditor gets a bank execution?

    If the creditor gets a bank execution from the court, there is a specific process that must be followed before any money can be taken from your account.

    First, a marshal will serve the court order on the bank. When the bank gets the court order, it will immediately freeze some or all of the money in your account, up to the total amount that you owe on the debt. The bank will freeze the money for 15 days.

    Note: There are some types of money that should not be frozen, such as Social Security benefits or child support that is directly deposited into your account.

    Next, your bank must send you these forms:

    If you fill out and return the Exemption Claim Form within 15 days from when the form was mailed, the money will stay in the bank

    • until the creditor agrees to release the money back to you, or

    • until a court hearing is held and the court says the money should be released back to you.

    If you do not return the Exemption Claim Form within 15 days, the court will order the bank to give your money to the creditor and to pay a fee to the marshal. The bank may also charge you a fee.

    What money can be protected?

    Here are some types of money that can be protected:

    • Public assistance payments and any money you earned under an incentive earnings or similar program.

    • Health and disability insurance payments.

    • Workers' compensation, Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and unemployment benefits.

    • Court-approved payments for child support.

    • Alimony and support, other than child support, up to a certain amount.

    • One thousand dollars. This is referred to as the wild card exemption. Even if you don’t have any other way to protect your funds, you can still keep $1,000 if you claim the exemption using the Exemption Claim Form.

    • Some other amounts, which are listed on the Exemption Claim Form.

    What can I do to help prevent having my money taken through a bank execution?

    • Make sure that you know about any court orders/judgments against you. You can look up most cases on the Judicial Branch website at http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/PartySearch.aspx or https://www.jud2.ct.gov/Small_Claims/sc_SearchParty.asp (for some older small claims cases) or ask for help at a Court Service Center, located in most courthouses.

    • Sign up for email alerts on any lawsuits you are involved in. You can do that on the court website using the links in the bullet before this one. You will not always get notice by mail about things happening with your case, even if you filed an Appearance form with the court.

    • If you are sued, make sure to file an Appearance form so the court has your current mailing address.

    • Make sure that bank always has your current mailing address. If your bank account is ever frozen, the bank execution court order and the Exemption Claim Form will be sent to the address they have on file for you.

    • If you have court orders/judgments, make sure you are paying them. Remember to keep track of the payments you make. If you can’t afford the payments ordered by the court, you can ask the court to lower them. Ask someone at a Court Service Center, located in most courthouses, how to do this.

    What can I do if an application for a bank execution is filed in one of my cases? 

    • If you have important bills that are due—such as rent—you may want to pay those right away since it could take the marshal a few days to get to your bank.

    • Try to keep your balances under $1,000 (the wild card protected amount).

    What can I do if my money has already been frozen because of a bank execution?

    • If you find out that your money in your account has already been frozen, watch your mail for the Exemption Claim Form sent by the bank. As explained above, this form lets you tell the bank that some of your money is protected and should not be frozen. The bank is supposed to mail this form to you with instructions on how to fill it out and where to send it.

    • You only have fifteen days from the day the bank mails the form to fill it out and return it to the bank. If you miss this deadline, the money will be taken from your account and given to the marshal/creditor. You may not be able to get any of the money back.

    • If you check the court website and see that an application for a bank execution has been filed in one of your cases, watch your mail for the Exemption Claim Form. If it doesn’t come within two days, go to the bank right away and ask the bank teller to contact their legal order processing department. Tell them you need an Exemption Claim Form.

    • When you are filling out the Exemption Claim Form, check off the box that says “An amount in the bank not to exceed $1,000” and any other exemption that you think you qualify for. You must sign this form in front of a notary public.

    • Make a copy of the completed Exemption Claim Form for yourself. Then mail the original to the bank at the address that is on the form.  It is best to send this by certified mail so that you can be sure the bank received it.

    • The bank will send your completed Exemption Claim Form to the court.  If the creditor disagrees that your money is protected, you will get a court hearing date.  If the creditor agrees that your money is protected, your money should be unfrozen and returned to you and you won’t need to go to court.

    • If a hearing is scheduled, go to the hearing.  If you have documents or witnesses that prove why some of your money is protected, make sure you bring the proof or witness with you to the hearing. If you can’t afford the payments ordered by the court, see if the creditor is willing to accept lower payments. If so, you can sign an agreement to change the payments. You will need to ask the Court to approve the agreement and enter it into the court file.

    • If the creditor won’t agree to lower the payments, you can file a Motion for Modification with the court. Ask someone at a Court Service Center how to do this.

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