If your bank account has a lien against it, that means some or all of your funds cannot be withdrawn and used by you. Someone, such as a creditor or attorney, has filed legal paperwork with your bank in a bid to freeze your funds. Those funds are currently not available to you and may be subsequently turned over to the other party pending further action to satisfy their claim against you.
Discover who ordered the lien in the first place. Likely, you already know who that party is, particularly if you are behind on child support payments, have had previous dealings with a particular creditor or some other action has been taken. You may have received notice of a court hearing or received a letter of judgment against you.
You can contact your bank and ask why your funds have been frozen and who has a lien against you. Your bank should be able to supply a name and contact telephone number of the person who requested the lien; ask the branch manager to supply this information to you. You will need to contact the creditor or attorney directly to discuss your case.
Discover what funds were attached in the lien. Certain funds in your bank account may not be frozen by the bank. Those monies may include Social Security and veteran's benefits, other government funds or your pension, according to the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project. If you believe exempt funds were frozen in error, contact your bank and explain which funds should not have been frozen. Your bank may request paperwork proving that these funds should not have been frozen, or if a direct deposit was made, they will be able to immediately identify the source. Demand to have those funds unfrozen immediately.
Vacate the judgment. You may be able to have the bank lien dropped through a process known as vacating a judgment. For example, if you received a court summons after the fact or were not able to appear in court to due to illness, incarceration or some other life event beyond your control, then you may be able to offer a reasonable excuse to have the lien vacated. Contact the court through the number supplied on your court summons to arrange for a hearing. Consider bringing along legal representation to defend your rights.
You may also be able to have the judgment vacated if you can prove that the lien was improperly served. For example, if you were a victim of identify theft, the debt may not belong to you. However, the burden of proof may remain on you so be prepared to show a police report, copies of your credit reports, or other notification proving that you are not responsible for the debt. You may be required to fill out an "Order to Show Cause" form to have your case vacated.
Satisfy the lien. If you legitimately owe money, you can have the lien removed by paying what you owe to a creditor or attorney. Once you settle the debt, then the bank will receive notice to release your funds. Your debt has been satisfied, the lien removed and you can access your bank account as usual.
Laws vary from state to state, therefore determine what your rights are. You may be able to handle the lien without an attorney, but seek legal counsel if needed.
A bank lien can turn into a bank levy where your funds are seized to satisfy a judgment. You may have only a few weeks to respond before funds are automatically withdrawn from your account.
Things You'll Need
Notice of judgment
Court contact information