If you owe past-due child support, chances are high that your state's child support enforcement unit is going to come knocking. One powerful collection method in states' arsenals is the bank levy. Money can be seized from your bank accounts to satisfy your arrears. This is different from garnishment, which takes money out of your wages. In some states, like California, getting behind by as little as $100 is enough to get you in trouble. You typically must pay the debt in full or successfully challenge the levy for reasons such as the debt not belonging to you in order to get it removed.
Getting Behind With Child Support
Although state laws can vary, it is a common practice for child support enforcement agencies to place a levy on the bank accounts of parents who are past due in the payment of child support. Typically, the parent must owe a certain amount before a levy can be placed. For example, in Arizona, a parent must owe at least 12 months or more in back child support.
A Bank Levy Can Be Long Term or Repetitive
How long a bank levy remains on an account varies among states as well. For example, once a levy attaches to an account in Massachusetts, it stays in effect for 60 days or until the past-due amount is paid in full, whichever happens first. In some states, a bank levy can be placed on an account multiple times until the amount of support in arrears is collected in full. For example, a levy can be placed on a specific account up to five times in one year in California. This means that if the balance owed wasn't collected the first time around due to a lack of funds, the state's child support unit can make additional seizure attempts.
Advance Notice of Levy
Unlike with most other debts, a parent must usually receive written notice from child support services before a bank levy can be placed on his account. In Arizona, a parent has 15 days from the date the notice of levy was mailed to either pay the past-due balance or challenge the validity of the levy. In North Carolina, a parent has 10 days from the date the notice to do so. A successful challenge to the levy before the deadline on the notice will result in the removal of the levy.
Contact Child Support Services to Remove Levy
Generally, bank levies are automatically removed when the past-due balance is satisfied, but if the amount to be levied is incorrect, the levy is applied to the wrong person, or the funds are exempt from seizure under the law – in other words, you don't honestly owe the debt – a parent can request its removal by contacting child support services, usually within a certain amount of time.
- Nolo: What's the Difference Between a Garnishment and a Levy?
- Arizona Department of Economic Security: Bank Account Levy Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Administrative Enforcement
- County of Orange Child Support Services: Bank Levy
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: Child Support Services Enforcement - Securing Assets From Financial Institutions Policy
- Official California Legislative Information: Family Code Section 17500-17561