What is a Bank Subpoena?

N. Madison
N. Madison

A bank subpoena is a legal instrument used to require a person, company, or bank to produce bank records that are relevant to a court case. For example, a person may attempt to hide income in order to avoid having to pay child support. The opposing parent may subpoena his bank records in order to demonstrate that the history of his bank account doesn’t match his stated lack of income. If a court grants a bank subpoena, the person, bank, or company named in the subpoena is required to produce the requested documents. The person to whom the subpoena is served is usually allowed to raise objections to the subpoena, however.

A person serving a subpoena.
A person serving a subpoena.

An individual or company who wants to secure a bank subpoena typically requests one from the court that is handling his case. For example, if a bank subpoena is required for a civil case, a party may request one from the civil court presiding over his case. On other other hand, subpoenas needed for child support cases may be requested from a family court clerk. If the party requesting the subpoena has legal representation, his lawyer will typically handle the subpoena requests for him.

A bank subpoena is a legal instrument used to require a person, company, or bank to produce bank records that are relevant to a court case.
A bank subpoena is a legal instrument used to require a person, company, or bank to produce bank records that are relevant to a court case.

Bank subpoenas aren’t usually granted lightly. Since bank records are typically viewed as sensitive and private, a judge may be strict in evaluating whether or not there is adequate justification for granting a subpoena. For example, a person may request a bank subpoena to demonstrate that the defendant in a case does have the financial resources necessary to pay a punitive damages claim. Likewise, a defendant may request this type of subpoena to verify a plaintiff's financial claims of lost wages.

A court may deny a party’s request for a bank subpoena if the requester or his attorney is unable to justify its relevance. For example, a party to a child support case may request a bank subpoena for an ex-spouse who refuses to pay support, citing financial hardship. In such a case, a court may see the relevance of the subpoena request and decide to grant it. If the same party requests a bank subpoena for his former spouse's new boyfriend, he may have a more difficult time. In such a case, he would usually have to convince the court that there is serious justification for requesting these records; the new boyfriend may argue that his bank account records are personal and irrelevant to the case at hand.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


@indigomoth - I agree with you, but I also think it can be more complicated than that. I think people should give as much as they can to their children. It is not a responsibility to take lightly.

But if you are unemployed, sometimes you can try as hard as you can and still not manage to get a job. Or to get a job which can support you properly, let alone some kids.

You never know what's going to happen to you in this world. Sometimes hard work and good intentions aren't enough, unfortunately.

I guess I think, though that the State should have to help out kids if they need it. That would give them more incentive to try and get the person who should be paying child support into a job too.


I think it's really sad when someone tries to stiff their ex partner on child support. The really bad thing about it is that I think it's quite easy to trick the courts into thinking you don't have much money, even if they do order a bank subpoena. People can have money in overseas accounts, or stored with their relatives or whatever else, particularly if they know that there is a court case coming up. And if they are bad enough to want to avoid child support payments, I'm sure they are bad enough to want to hide the money to try and get away with it.

Personally, I think child support should just be a given, and people should have to prove that they physically can't provide it, rather than just that they can't afford it.

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