Imagine going to court because a creditor is seeking to collect on money you owe. A judgment is entered against you, meaning the court recognizes your legal responsibility to pay the debt. You leave the courtroom wondering how you are going to swing it financially. You might think you can avoid paying simply by not giving the creditor information about your assets.

Think again.

Creditors have tools at their disposal, tools to help them get the necessary information to collect from you. Some use private detectives with access to all sorts of databases. Others do the detective work themselves. In terms of legal proceedings, one of the most effective tools is something known as the judgment debtor exam.

A judgment debtor exam is initiated via a court proceeding. The creditor, or its judgment collection service, petitions the court for a hearing in order to retrieve necessary information. You would be required by the court to attend. During that hearing, the creditor would ask you a series of questions you would be expected to answer truthfully.

Collection Is Not the Court’s Responsibility

The first thing to understand here is that debt collection is not the court’s responsibility. A court hears evidence from both creditor and debtor, then decides whether or not to enter a judgment against the debtor. Once such a judgment is entered, the court’s responsibility is concluded. It is now up to the creditor to use whatever legal tools are available to collect payment.

Judgment Collectors, a Salt Lake City judgment collection agency, explains that creditors expect debtors to cooperate with them in the collection process. This includes providing relevant information about assets and income. In the event such cooperation is not forthcoming, the creditor can petition the court for a hearing.

Let us say the hearing produces the desired results. The creditor now knows where the debtor works. The creditor also has legal authority to garnish the debtor’s wages, and that is exactly what happens. In the meantime, the creditor might also look at other assets that can be utilized to pay the debt.

Answering Exam Questions

Courts are different in how they conduct judgment debtor exams. In some cases, the creditor might ask the necessary questions in the presence of the judge. Being under oath, the debtor is expected to answer the questions truthfully and completely.

In other cases, the judge may convene the hearing and then instruct both sides to step into a conference room or out into the hall for questions and answers. This frees up the court to move on to the next case on the docket. Even in such cases, the debtor is still under oath and is still expected answer truthfully.

What kinds of questions can a creditor legally ask? There are dozens of them. Here are just a few examples:

  • Name, current address, and phone number
  • Marital status and spouse information
  • Whether the debtor’s home is rented or owned
  • Who makes rent or mortgage payments
  • How rent or mortgage payments are made
  • Name and address of the debtor’s employer
  • The name of the debtor’s supervisor
  • The debtor’s salary, commissions, bonus payments, etc.
  • Information about other assets (stocks, vacation property, etc.).

In short, creditors can ask whatever questions they deem necessary to determine the extent of the debtor’s income and assets. That information is then used to garnish wages, implement attachments and executions, and so forth. Not showing up for such a hearing obviously makes life much more difficult for the creditor, but there are other tools that can be used in this situation if necessary.