When a judgment debtor isn’t paying a judgment, a creditor has the option of sending a court order that requires that debtor to disclose various assets and financial information to make collection possible. If the debtor fails to do so, the creditor can request that the debtor be held in contempt of court. A finding of contempt can result in fines, jail time, or both for the debtor.
· The creditor has reduced the debt to judgment
· If the judgment arose in District Court, it must have been docketed for at least 30 days. If it arose in Conciliation Court, it must have been docketed in District Court, but the 30 day requirement does not apply
· The creditor is represented by an attorney (if not, an Order for Disclosure from the Court would be the equivalent)
· The judgment remains unsatisfied and no payment agreement is in place
The attorney handling the matter will complete the Demand for Disclosure and serve it with the disclosure form and exemption notice upon the debtor(s). The debtor then has 10 days to mail the completed disclosure back to the creditor’s attorney via certified mail.
If the debtor fails to respond or provides an incomplete or inaccurate response, the attorney will ordinarily send the debtor a notice of such failure and warn him or her that a request will be made for a contempt order if a full and accurate disclosure is not provided.
If an adequate response is not received, the creditor’s attorney can file an affidavit stating the failure to respond and requesting that a Show Cause Hearing be held to determine whether the debtor will be held in contempt. Once the court issues the order for the hearing, the attorney must arrange for that order to be personally served upon the debtor.
A Demand for Disclosure is a relatively fast and inexpensive means of conducting post-judgment discovery. The fact that the attorney can serve the Demand without prior approval from the Court and the 10-day response period (as opposed to 30 for standard discovery) mean significantly less delay for the client. The court-mandated forms and simplicity of the process reduce the time and legal fees involved.
One disadvantage of a Demand for Disclosure is the limited scope of the information requested. Unlike interrogatories, the Demand is a fixed form that cannot be tailored to individual circumstances. Additionally, the Demand does not allow requests for documents such as tax returns or bank statements that can lead to additional income sources or assets.
A second disadvantage is that Demands are often ignored by unresponsive debtors. The additional time spent requesting, preparing for, and attending a Show Cause hearing in the matter can eliminate the efficiency advantage mentioned above. Evaluating the history of communication with the debtor on an account is an important step in determining whether a Demand is appropriate.
If you have an outstanding judgment that needs collection, contact an attorney to find out if a Demand for Disclosure is a good choice to help recover the sums owed to you.