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Judgment Collection Lingo: What Are Debtor’s Interrogatories?

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Civil law has its own lingo that may be difficult for nonprofessionals to understand. Take judgments, for example. In the days or weeks following a court hearing, the plaintiff’s attorney might arrange for debtor’s interrogatories. Attorneys on both sides will fully understand what this means. Plaintiffs and defendants may not.

The ‘debtor’ portion of the phrase ought to be simple enough. Debtors are the main target of the action in question. As for ‘interrogatories’, think interrogation here. That is essentially what it is. Debtor’s interrogatories is a legal tool that allows plaintiffs and their attorneys to question debtors under oath.

Determining How to Collect

The whole point of debtor’s interrogatories is to determine how to collect an outstanding judgment. A plaintiff and its attorney need to know what options they have, based on debtor financial circumstances. This is accomplished by asking the court for a Summons to Answer Debtor’s Interrogatories. If approved, the summons requires the debtor to appear in court to answer plaintiff questions under oath.

Though state laws vary in terms of how summons are issued and served, debtors must respond to service within a specific amount of time. They must also appear in court on the scheduled day. A failure to appear could result in a court order directing the local sheriff to take custody of the debtor and bring them in. However, some states allow debtors to avoid being taken into custody by filing a Rule to Show Cause.

Debtor’s Interrogatories Questions

Answering a debtor’s interrogatories summons generally results in a courthouse meeting. Rarely do such meetings take place in the presence of a judge. Nonetheless, debtors are required to answer under oath. Violating the oath by being untruthful can result in a contempt of court charge.

The types of questions asked are pretty similar in most cases. According to Salt Lake City-based Judgment Collectors, questions generally revolve around:

  • current address and contact information
  • current employment and weekly income
  • financial assets (bank accounts, additional income, etc.)
  • other assets (real property, investment assets, etc.)
  • vehicle registration information
  • tenant information (if renting).

Attorneys and judgment collectors may combine the information received during the hearing with credit reports and online searches to uncover potential assets. This is all done to get a good idea of a debtor’s ability to pay. Ultimately, attorneys and judgment collection agencies want to locate any and all assets that could be leveraged.

Incomplete and Untruthful Answers

Judgment Collectors says that debtors do not always come clean during debtor’s interrogatories hearings. They often provide incomplete information. Sometimes, they outright lie. Being untruthful or not forthcoming is a way to stall collection for as long as possible. Debtors who choose to go this route know that their chances of getting away without paying increase the longer they can hold out.

For example, a debtor may provide inaccurate information about current employment status and weekly income. He might understate his income, making the plaintiff believe he does not make enough money to have his wages sufficiently garnished.

Another common tactic is to fail to report certain assets that debtors believe would be too hard to track down. You might have a defendant who owns a vacation property in another state. Thinking that the collection agency will not even know where to look, he fails to report that asset. He may be surprised by just how easily the property is discovered.

Debtor’s interrogatories is a legal process that allows plaintiffs to ask defendants questions under oath. The purpose of this is to uncover assets that can be used to satisfy outstanding judgments.

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