Q: In Maryland our joint account was served with a writ of garnishment however only of of us is the judgment debtor.
Is it worth trying to get the frozen account taken care of through the collections/law firm or should I go to court and immediately file a motion to release? Does my wife have a case for damages as we cannot currently pay rent, insurance, food etc..
A: An online post cannot give a detailed answer on the best steps to take in a particular situation. The law offers some protection, but it is not automatic.
Generally speaking, if an account is owned as TENANTS BY THE ENTIRETY, in most situations a judgment creditor of only one spouse cannot lawfully seize the property. That is because in the eyes of the law the husband and wife as a separate entity own it. However, if an account is owned as JOINT TENANTS or TENANTS IN COMMON, a judgment creditor may be able to seize up to 1/2 (or whatever portion the debtor spouse owns based on the number of joint owners).
Unfortunately a general hardship does not exempt property from seizure. The law allows certain exemptions from garnishment, but these are not automatic. Maryland allows an individual to exempt up to $6,000 worth of property from garnishment, but to get the benefit the judgment debtor must promptly file with the court to proclaim the property as exempt from garnishment.
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