Q: What is a judgment
A: A judgment debtor exam is a court-ordered meeting between you
and a creditor held after that creditor
already has a judgment against you. At this post-trial meeting, the creditor can
ask you a wide variety of questions about your assets (i.e., cars, homes, job,
bank accounts, etc.) and you must take an oath and give truthful answers. If
the case against you is not over and there is no judgment, the creditor is not
entitled to a judgment debtor exam, but be aware that the creditor may have
other ways of getting relevant information.
Q: Do I have to attend the judgment
A: Yes! Although it may seem pointless, especially if you know
you have no assets or ability to pay the judgment, you must attend the judgment
debtor exam. Because it is a court-ordered proceeding, it is wise to show up,
even if you don’t have much to tell the creditor. If you cannot make the
scheduled exam, try to contact the creditor’s lawyer to reschedule. If that
doesn’t work, contact the court and ask for a continuance.
Q: What happens if I don’t
attend the exam?
A: If you fail to show up, you may be summoned to appear before
the judge and explain your reason for missing the scheduled exam. Even worse,
the judge might issue a “capias” letter (similar to a warrant) for your arrest.
This means that if you are stopped by the police for any reason in the future,
the warrant will show up in the police department’s system and you could be
arrested and detained until the exam is completed. You could also be fined and
held in contempt of court for failing to appear.
Q: What happens at the
A: Usually, you will arrive at the courthouse at the scheduled
time and meet briefly with the creditor’s attorney. After this introduction,
you will take an oath. In most instances, you will then go to a private conference
room where the examination will be conducted. At this private meeting, the creditor’s
attorney can ask you about anything related to your ability to pay the
judgment. This includes questions about your bank accounts, job, house, cars,
jewelry, tools, insurance policies, retirement savings and any other personal
property. Keep in mind, if the judgment against you is solely for a personal
debt, the creditor usually cannot ask you about business assets.
Q: Do I have to answer every question?
A: Yes, and you must abide by your oath to tell the truth during
the exam. Just as you wouldn’t lie on the witness stand, you shouldn’t lie at
the debtor exam. If you are caught lying, you could be charged with criminal
perjury. If you refuse to answer a question, you could be held in contempt. If
you think that a question is improper, you can ask the magistrate to rule on
the appropriateness of the question before you answer. Keep in mind, however,
that the magistrate cannot give you legal advice.
Q: I am worried about my
privacy. Will other people hear my answers?
A: No. Generally only you, the creditor/creditor’s attorney, and
possibly a magistrate or judge will hear your answers. Also, your answers will not
be part of the public record and the creditor is still subject to privacy laws
regarding how your information may be used. Because this is a private meeting
where your answers will not be shared with the public, don’t be afraid to give
Q: Is there anything else I need to know?
A: As long as you are truthful with the creditor’s attorney, it
should be a fairly harmless process. You may even wish to use the judgment
debtor exam meeting time to work out a payment plan with the creditor so you
don’t have to worry about an untimely or unexpected wage or bank garnishment.
Most creditors are willing to work out a payment plan, and the worst they can
do is say no.
This “Law You Can Use” column was
provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Columbus attorney Mark A. Glumac of Wiles,
Boyle, Burkholder, & Bringardner Co., L.P.A. Articles appearing in
this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law.
Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged
to seek advice from an attorney.
Labels: creditor, debt, judgment debtor exam