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What can I do if my bank account is frozen due to a garnishment order and it includes Social Security or other federal benefit payments?

The specific process will depend on state law.

Generally, state law requires that you receive, or be sent, a letter or other notice telling you that a court has issued a garnishment order for money in your bank account. The notice usually will give you information about potential exemptions and tell you what to do if you think money in your bank account is exempt from garnishment.

If you did not get a notice about the garnishment of your account, ask your bank for a copy of the garnishment order that it received. You can also contact the creditor or the court that issued the order.

In many cases, your bank is required to automatically protect a certain amount of Social Security and certain other federal benefits that are direct deposited into your bank account. If money is automatically protected, it should not be frozen, and you should be able to withdraw it at any time.

If you have money in the account that is not automatically protected, you may need to contact your bank, the creditor, or the court if you believe the money should be protected from garnishment. You should review any notice or other information that you received about the garnishment and follow the instructions provided in the notice, including any deadlines.

Last Reviewed: October 2020

Please note: The terms "bank" and "banks" used in these answers generally refer to national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches or agencies of foreign banking organizations that are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Find out if the OCC regulates your bank. Information provided on HelpWithMyBank.gov should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion of the OCC.

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