Learn how to get the judgment debtor to appear in court and answer questions about his finances so that you have the information you need to collect your judgment.
Sometimes the person who wins a judgment (the “judgment creditor”) simply has no information about the losing party’s (the “judgment debtor’s”) money or property. Without that information, it is impossible to execute the judgment and collect. If that is your situation, there is a tool called a “judgment debtor exam” you can use to try and get the information.
At any time after the judgment is entered, you can ask the court for an order requiring the judgment debtor to appear at a hearing and answer questions, under oath, about his money and property. The purpose of the examination is for you to collect the information you need to force payment from the judgment debtor. Your questions at the examination might relate to such things as where the debtor works, where he banks, what types of property he owns, where that property is located, and the like.
Once you get the information you need, you can prepare the paperwork necessary to garnish the judgment debtor’s wages, attach his bank accounts, or take whatever action is appropriate. For more information, click to visit Garnishing Wages or Attaching Bank Accounts.
TIP! This website provides general information about collecting judgments. But judgment collection can be tricky depending on who you’re trying to collect from. If you hit a brick wall, you may want to talk to an attorney who specializes in collections. Click to visit Lawyers and Legal Help.
Q&A – Judgment Debtor Exams
How do I request a judgment debtor examination?
To request a judgment debtor exam, you must file a Motion for Examination of Judgment Debtor and a proposed order for the judge to sign. With the proposed order, you can include a list of documents you want the debtor to bring, such as bank account statements, tax returns, paystubs, vehicle titles, and real property records. Once the judge has granted your request, you must mail the order setting the examination to the judgment debtor. You must file a certificate of mailing with the court before the date set for the examination.
A form Motion for Judgment Debtor Exam (with related documents), is available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center. You can also download the forms on your computer by clicking one of the formats underneath the form’s title below:
For tips on filling out and filing legal documents, click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing.
TIP! If you want the debtor to bring documents to the examination, you must attach a list of documents to the proposed order when you submit it for the judge’s signature. Keep in mind that you can’t require the debtor to create a document (for example, a list of all his property), but you can require him to bring a document that already exists (like a bank statement or a paycheck stub).
How do I conduct the examination of the judgment debtor?
Go to the hearing with a list of questions to ask the judgment debtor. The judge, courtroom clerk, or bailiff will place the debtor under oath. You will then be able to ask the debtor your questions. For a list of sample questions, click on the link below:
SAMPLE QUESTIONS FOR JUDGMENT DEBTOR EXAMINATION
FYI! Some judges ask the questions themselves from your list of questions. Don’t count on this though. Be prepared to examine the judgment debtor yourself.
The entire examination of the judgment debtor may take place in the courtroom. But the judge might also instruct the debtor to accompany you into the hallway to answer your questions there.
TIP! If you’re in the hallway and the debtor is refusing to answer your questions or being evasive, go back into the courtroom and ask for assistance.
Be sure to take good notes at the examination. You will need the information you collect later.
What happens if the judgment debtor does not appear at the examination?
A judgment debtor who is properly served with an Order Allowing Examination of Judgment Debtor and who fails to appear at the time and place specified in the order can be punished for contempt by the judge issuing the order.
FYI! No debtor can be required to appear for a judgment debtor examination outside the county in which he resides.
In order to have the debtor held in contempt of court, file a Motion for an Order to Show Cause and Order to show Cause. A form motion and order are available for free at the Self-Help Center, or you can download them by clicking one of the formats underneath the form’s title below:
MOTION FOR ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE AND ORDER
If the judge signs the order, you must have it personally served on the debtor and file proof of service with the court.
If the debtor fails to appear at the “show cause” hearing or fails to furnish an adequate reason for his failure to appear at the debtor examination, the judge can hold the debtor in contempt and issue a bench warrant for his arrest.
TIP! The judge can’t issue a bench warrant for a business. So if you won a judgment against a business, when you file your motion ask for a particular person from the company to appear at the hearing (the president or owner, for example).
What kind of questions can I ask the judgment debtor?
You can ask questions geared towards getting the financial information from the judgment debtor you need to execute your judgment. Remember that the purpose of the examination is to figure out what kinds of assets the judgment debtor has and where those assets are located. So your questions should be directed to that type of information.
Here are some examples of questions you might want to ask:
- What's your home address?
- What's your home telephone number?
- Are you married? If so, what's the first name, maiden name, and last name of your spouse?
- Do you live in a rented apartment? A single family home? A condo? A mobile home? What's the address?
- What's your social security number?
- If you live in a single family home, condo, or mobile home, do you own it?
- If you live in a rented apartment, who pays the rent? To whom is it paid?
- Is it paid by check? Is your rent/mortgage up to date?
- Do you have any boarders or subtenants? If so, what are their names and how much do they pay you each month?
- Do you have a vacation home, recreational vehicle, or boat?
- What's your occupation?
- Are you presently employed? If so, by whom?
- At what address? Where is the payroll office located?
- What's your work telephone number?
- What's the name of your supervisor?
- What's your gross salary? What's your net salary? What payroll deductions are made?
- Do you receive commissions? When are you paid?
- How much is owed to you now?
- Do you have any part-time employment? If so, please explain.
- Is your spouse employed or in business? If so, what's his or her salary? What is the address of his or her workplace?
- Do you own any stock or any interest in the business where you work? If so, please explain.
- Do you or your spouse have any bank checking or savings accounts? If so, what's the name of the bank branch, and what are the account numbers and present balances?
- Do you or your spouse have a driver's license? For what state? What are the driver's license numbers?
- How did you get here today?
- What's the year and make of your car? Do you own it? Is it financed? By whom? How much is owed?
- Do you have any credit cards? Can you get a cash advance on any of those cards?
- What type of retirement accounts do you have? Are you able to borrow against your retirement account?
- Do you have life insurance? Is it a whole life policy?
- Do you have any property, personal effects, cash, or other assets that you've not yet mentioned? If so, please explain.
These are just some examples of questions you can ask. Use your imagination and what you know about the judgment debtor to tailor your questions to get the information most likely to help you.
What do I do with the information I collect at the debtor examination?
After the examination, use the information you collected to complete the paperwork necessary to execute your judgment. For more information, click to visit Garnishing Wages and Attaching Bank Accounts.