If you owe money to a creditor (for example, a credit card company, medical provider, financing company for your car or other company you owe money to) that creditor can file a lawsuit in civil court to try to get their money back. If they win the lawsuit, the court will issue a “civil money judgment”—basically, a piece of paper stating how much money you owe the creditor. With this judgment, the creditor may contact the court officer or sheriff to “levy” or “freeze” your bank account, and you will not be able to take money out of the account. You will not receive a notice of bank levy before the freeze on your account.
What is a turnover order?
After the freeze on the account, it will seem that the money is no longer there. However, the money will stay at the bank until the creditor files a motion to ask the court to order the bank to “turnover” the funds to the court officer or the sheriff.
Opposing to levy
You can object to this levy by filing these forms with the court: How to Object to a Bank Account Levy. There are two arguments you can make to object to the levy: 1) You may object because you are not the person who owes the debt; or 2) you may object because the money in your account is exempt from levy. The following sources of income are exempt from levy for a civil money judgment: Social Security benefits, cash assistance from welfare such as General Assistance (GA) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Temporary Disability from the State of New Jersey, Veteran’s Benefits, and Unemployment Benefits. Further, everyone in New Jersey is entitled to a $1,000 exemption from levy on any personal property.
If the objection to the levy is based on an exemption, choose all exemptions that apply. For example, if some of the money in the account is from child support and some is from employment, choose the box next to child support. Always choose the box next to the personal property exemption of $1000.00 because it will always apply.
Are there any fees to object?
There is no fee to file an opposition to a levy in Special Civil Part.
Submitting your forms
You can either upload the forms to the court website using JEDS, or mail or hand deliver the forms to the Special Civil Part clerk. See Directory of Superior Court Special Civil Part Offices (from NJ Courts) for addresses and phone numbers for special civil part offices.
Mailing a copy to the plaintiff (creditor)
You must also send the opposition forms to the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney, if they have one. You can send it by regular mail, certified mail, return receipt requested, or you can personally deliver it to the plaintiff.
Going to court
The court will hold a hearing. At this time, all hearings in Special Civil Part are virtual. At the hearing, the court will review your objections and decide whether the money in the bank account is exempt from levy.
The court will only consider the opposition to the levy. The court will not consider any defense you may have to the debt. In other words, the court will presume that you owe the money to the creditor. In order to ask the court to consider defenses to the claim, you will have to file a motion to “vacate” (cancel) the judgment.
If the court agrees that the funds in your account are exempt, the court will issue an order and the bank will be notified. If money has already been turned-over to the creditor, the court can order the creditor to repay that money.
Although filing a bankruptcy is not the right answer for everyone, the debt may be “dischargeable” in bankruptcy. This means you would not have to pay the debt and the levy would be removed from the account when you file a bankruptcy. Consider speaking to an attorney about whether you should file for bankruptcy.
This information last reviewed: Oct 31, 2022