Q: I just learned that a creditor has attached my checking account. Can I get this money back? A: Maybe. If you owe someone money and they get a judgment from a court for that money, they can attach your bank account. This means that the bank freezes your account and will send the money to the creditor. The creditor also can get a lien on your home (or other real property that you own). It is very upsetting when you learn that a check has bounced because your bank has frozen your account. A judgment is an official order from a court that you legally owe a certain amount of money to someone. And, interest at the rate of nine percent a year is automatically added on to the judgment. Before a creditor can get a court judgment, they have to file a lawsuit against you. You will know when you have been sued because you will be served with a Summons and Complaint. Service will usually be by a sheriff or process server personally delivering the Summons and Complaint to your home. If you are not at home, the Summons and Complaint can be attached to your door and you will also get a mailed copy. If you do not file a legal answer within 20 days, the creditor gets a default judgment against you. That means you lose because you did not appear in court to fight the allegation that you owe a certain amount of money. Without the judgment from the court, your creditor cannot seize your bank account without notice, so it is very, very important to talk to a lawyer if you received a Summons and Complaint. If you ignore it, the judgment will be issued without further notice to you from the court or the creditor. If there is a judgment against you, sooner or later, the creditor will probably try to attach your bank account. They can also garnish your wages from your employer. If you file for bankruptcy, your bank will have to release the attached money. If you have an exemption for the money being held, the money will be released back to you. If the money is not exempt, the money will be released to the bankruptcy trustee to distribute fairly to all of your creditors. You can have a cash exemption of $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a married couple if you did not use your homestead exemption. The bottom line is: avoid attachments of your bank account, if possible. If you plan on filing for bankruptcy, you should do it before your account is attached. If your account is attached, you can call us for legal advice regarding bankruptcy and your other legal options. For more information about personal injury and other practice areas, visit The Law Office of Mark Schneider on the Internet at www.northcountrylaw.com or call 566-6666. If you have a question, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org, mail it to The Law Office of Mark Schneider, 57 Court St., Plattsburgh, N.Y. 12901, or fax it to 566-6667. When submitting a question, include your name and phone number, which will be used for contact purposes only, and not for publication. Due to the potential high volume of questions received, not all questions will necessarily be printed in this column. If you have a legal problem, consult a local attorney immediately in order to understand and preserve your rights.