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Usually, judgment debtors ignore the judge's order to pay you. If a creditor asks them about repayment, most judgment debtors will lie to avoid paying your judgment. If you base your judgment enforcement decisions and actions only on listening and believing your judgment debtor, your judgment will never get enforced.
Being poor, or being sneaky and hiding assets, are the most popular ways to avoid paying judgments. Very often, the judgment debtor does have some financial resources, sufficient to settle, or pay at least part of the judgment, at least on a payment plan, if not in a lump sum.
One way of attempting to learn the truth about your judgment debtor and their assets, is to use the legal tool known as an "Interrogatory". When used as a post-judgment enforcement action, an interrogatory is a list of questions served upon a judgment debtor, that they are (at least in theory) obligated to answer truthfully and completely. The judgment debtor will have a strict time limit, in which they must reply to the questions, and return the (completely) answered interrogatories.
With interrogatories, almost everything depends on which state and/or which court. In some states, post judgment interrogatories are not used; and are often replaced by (e.g.) judgment debtor examinations. If interrogatories are not allowed and/or appropriate for your court or state, then the rest of this article may not apply to your judgment.
Interrogatories are used to discover facts about a judgment debtor and their finances, that they wish you would never be able to find out. You can ask questions about their employment and income, bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, and just about anything else about their possible assets that you would want to know.
Different states and courts allow different numbers of questions that can be included, and have varying requirements on the way they must be served on the judgment debtor or third-parties related to them. The time limits for a served party to respond, will vary in different jurisdictions.
If the served party is not forthcoming in their responses to interrogatories, or fails to comply with the court rules, or if they are untruthful in answering the questions, the judge may take punitive action against them. They could be found to be in contempt of court.
Interrogatories can be a fantastic method of gaining the upper hand, over a judgment debtor who is reluctant to reveal the facts about their ability to satisfy your money judgment. When laws allow, and your court backs you up, it is encouraging to know that the judgment debtor cannot really afford to ignore full compliance and truthful responses.
Of course, one can hire an attorney to prepare and serve interrogatories. If you are enforcing a judgment that you own, you can do this yourself, if you learn how. Start by studying the court's rules of procedure, to find out how interrogatories are handled at their court.
You can find interrogatory examples either on the web, at the court, or at a law library. Any sample you find should be modified for the circumstances of your judgment debtor and your court. The quality of your questions are more important than asking the maximum allowed at your court.
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