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What Is a Bank Subpoena?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Bank Subpoena?

A Bank Subpoena is a legal instrument compelling a bank to deliver particular financial papers and data about a client. These documents include copies of cheques, credit card statements, and records of deposits, withdrawals, and other financial activities. 

Generally, Bank Subpoenas are used in litigation and other legal actions to collect case-related material.

How does a Bank Subpoena work?

A court or government agency serves a bank with a Bank Subpoena, requiring the bank to disclose the requested papers and data within a certain time limit. Also, the bank is required to keep the customer's financial information strictly confidential at all times.

What is the difference between a Bank Subpoena and a Court Order?

A court order and a bank subpoena are two distinct legal papers. A Bank Subpoena is a document that asks a bank to provide specified papers and information, while a Court Order orders a party to perform or avoid certain acts.

Are Bank Subpoenas confidential?

Bank subpoenas are often not confidential and may be shared with other parties participating in the judicial process. 

Nevertheless, banks must take reasonable steps to ensure the confidentiality of the customer's financial information. 

Sometimes, the court may issue an order mandating the parties to keep the Subpoena and related documents confidential.

What happens if a bank fails to comply with a Bank Subpoena?

Should a bank refuse, the court may impose fines or take other appropriate measures.

The court may issue an order directing the bank to submit the required papers and records, as well as an order forcing the bank to pay the costs associated with providing the requested documents and data.

Financial sanctions are possible in addition to penalties for contempt of court and fines for other offenses.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By pleonasm — On Sep 29, 2011

@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.

By indigomoth — On Sep 28, 2011

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.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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