How to Conduct a Judgment Debtor Examination

A civil lawsuit is an option if someone owes you money and won't pay. Once you obtain a judgment against that individual or business, your next step is to collect the funds owed you. However, you might not have information on the debtor's assets to issue a garnishment. If that is the case, then a judgment debtor examination is your next step.

The purpose of a judgment debtor examination is to get the debtor to come to court and testify as to his assets. The debtor must answer your questions about his assets under oath and, if found to be lying, can face a charge of contempt of court.

Contact the court in which you obtained a judgment against the debtor and find out what the judgment debtor examination process is. Each state has a different process for getting the debtor to appear in court.

Read More: How to Collect Small Claims Judgments

Attempt to collect payment from the debtor voluntarily through a 30-day general execution before requesting a judgment debtor examination from the court. This is the process in states like Missouri. Once the 30 days pass and the debtor doesn't pay what is owed, proceed to Step 4; otherwise your state may require the process set forth in Step 5.

File a motion for examination of judgment debtor with the court. Basically, this is a request to hold a judgment debtor examination. The judge will likely sustain your motion, and the county sheriff will serve a citation (much like a subpoena) to the debtor to appear in court on a specified date and time.

Request that the court serve a subpoena to the debtor, as is the practice in states like New Mexico, which calls her into court on a certain date and time for the judgment debtor examination.

Prepare a list of questions to ask the debtor regarding his assets. Important information you must obtain to garnish wages or file other executions includes date of birth, social security number, bank account information, real estate and personal property owned and any other debts or judgments the debtor may owe.

Appear for court on the specified date and time and ask the debtor the questions you prepared. Attempt to make payment arrangements with the debtor with the specific condition that, should he fail to make those payments, you will use the information he provides to garnish his wages or bank account.


  • Occasionally debtors will ignore the call to appear in court. If this is the case, you may need to file a motion to show cause or a body attachment to guarantee an appearance at a later date.

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