Money and Debt

Fighting a bank account freeze or attachment

Money has been removed from your bank account by someone you owe money to. Read more to find out if it is too late or if there is anything you can do to get the money back.

A note on COVID 19: As stimulus checks have started to arrive in Ohioans bank accounts, the Ohio Attorney General's office has warned debt collectors that stimulus checks are protected under Ohio law. What this means is that except for child support, a debt collector or creditor can't take or garnish your stimulus check from your bank account. 

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You may have a creditor who tries to collect a debt. In order to collect they sue you in court. If the creditor wins, the court gives them the right to collect payment from you. There are several ways they can do this.  One method is taking money directly out of your bank account.

What happens when money is taken out of your account

  • You will get a letter from the court notifying you that the creditor is requesting the money being held be turned over to them. The  letter will also tell you that you have the right to request a hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to determine what to do with the money that is on hold.
  • You must confirm that you want the hearing. Send back the “request for hearing” form the court provides with the letter to confirm. If you do not respond within five days, the court will not schedule a hearing and the money will be sent to the creditor. By requesting this hearing you may have an opportunity to get some or all of your money back. Try to get an attorney who can help you through this process. To find an attorney, see Legal Help and Lawyers on this page.  

The hearing is not to determine whether you owe the money. If the money has been taken out of your bank account, it’s too late to argue that you don’t owe the money. You were already sued by a creditor. The court gave the creditor the right to take the money from your bank account. At this point, you can only get your money back if you can prove that it’s not the type of money the creditor is allowed to take.

Types of money you can get back

There are several types of money that are protected from creditors. These include “exempt income,” other people’s money and money that may be part of a bankruptcy.

  • Money beyond a minimum level in your bank account. The court will not leave less than $400 in your account.
  • "Exempt income." Exempt income is usually income or benefits that come from government sources, plus a few other. This includes: 
    • Ohio Works First (OWF) or TANF
    • Unemployment compensation
    • Worker’s compensation
    • Tax refunds from Child Tax Credits or Earned Income Tax Credits
    • Social Security
    • Veterans benefits
    • Disability Assistance (DFA)
    • Disability benefits or payments from insurance settlements
    • Pension payments
    • Child support
    • Alimony payments
  • Money that belongs to someone else. A creditor can take money from any bank account that has your name on it. These include accounts that you share with someone else. A shared account is also called a “joint account.” Common joint accounts include those you share with a spouse, another family member or a business partner. If you can prove that all or most of the money in a joint account belongs to the other person, you will be able to have that portion returned.
  • Money that is part of an ongoing bankruptcy procedure. If you filed for bankruptcy, creditors cannot collect from you. This is true even if you lose a lawsuit to a new creditor. Until the first bankruptcy case is settled, a new creditor cannot collect anything.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) changes

Ohio law does not allow a creditor to take your stimulus check from your bank account. The Ohio Attorney General's office has warned debt collectors that stimulus checks are protected under Ohio law. What this means is that except for child support, a debt collector or creditor can't take your stimulus check from your bank account.  

You must prove the money should not have been taken

Just because some of the money taken from your account is exempt or does not belong to you, that does not mean you will automatically get it back. You must prove that there was not enough money left in your bank account after subtracting the money that should not have been taken. This can be complex. You should try to get a lawyer if you can. If you can’t afford one, contact legal aid to find out if you qualify.

To prove the money should not have been taken, you will need documentation. This documentation must show the amount involved and where it came from. You need to show how much of that money was exempt on the day the court removed money from your account. To prove the sources of income in your account, bring:

  • Letters showing where the money came from. Like a letter from the government showing the amount of the benefit or award.
  • Deposit slips or bank statements showing when the money was deposited.
  • A bank statement showing know how much exempt money was in your account on the day the court removed money from your account.

You will need to put these documents in front of the court using the court's “rules of evidence." This can be hard to do. This is one of the key reasons it’s useful to have a lawyer.

Keep in mind that if you have some exempt money in your account, plus some non-exempt money, the creditor can take all of the non-except money (except the $400 that must remain). For example, let’s say you have $2000 in your account, and $500 is exempt. If you owe a creditor $1000, they can take the full $1000 because you still have more than $400 remaining.

Consider contacting the creditor's lawyer

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with contacting your creditor’s lawyer. If you have the documentation proving they took exempt money, you can ask them to return the funds. They may agree to your request if they believe the court is going to do so anyway.

If their lawyer says they will release the money, ask them for a letter saying they have done so. Then check with your bank in few days to make sure the money has been returned. The bank will also send you a letter. 

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