I am a Judgment Broker, not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.
Many times, to help in the battle to recover a judgment, you must have the court order the judgment debtor to appear in court, by getting a subpoena. Either a lawyer or the court can issue a subpoena. The court will provide a schedule for a debtor examination (a hearing) at the court where the judgment was obtained.
The court appearance of a judgment debtor to answer your questions is called an OEX, which stands for Order to appear for EXamination. Sometimes it is called a JDX, which stands for Judgment Debtor eXamination. With the right set of documentation, you can also attempt to compel the debtor, or third parties to the debtor, to bring certain documents to the court for you to see. This request for documentation is called a SDT, which stands for Subpoena Duces Tecum.
Debtor exams are not as easy or as cheap as they should be. Very often, the court will charge for a scheduled hearing, then you must (usually) pay to have the debtor served check website.
Having a friend serve subpoenas might be legal, but you are much better off hiring a sheriff or a registered process server. The reason is, should the served party lie and say they were not served, the court will more likely believe a sheriff or a registered process server.
Serving the debtor themselves, while necessary, is not as valuable as also serving third parties to the debtor for several reasons:
1) The debtor may not show up in court, and the judge might issue a warrant for the debtor’s arrest that you must pay for. Many debtors know that in most places, the Sheriffs make this a very low priority, and in some places, debtors are never picked up, even at traffic violation stops, for civil bench warrants.
2) Debtors can and do lie whenever they wish, and they often fail to bring requested documents on the first request. Many debtors know the worst that will happen is they may have to come to court again. There is a saying, “never ask a debtor a question, unless you already know the answer”.
3) There are financial penalties for disobeying a court order, such as being properly served, and not showing up or doing what the court asked. Debtors already owe money and are not paying, so what is a little more owed?
The subpoenaed third party must (based upon your information and belief) owe the debtor money, or control or have knowledge of the debtors assets.
Third parties do not like to go to court, or to pay penalties for not doing what the court ordered. If the third party is the debtor’s spouse, kids, or parents, a unique pressure can be put on the debtor. Third parties are usually much more sensitive to court-related threats of arrest and fines than judgment debtors are.
Third parties can be served – but only if the debtor is also served. You must pay to have each party served, after the debtor’s examination is scheduled. Third parties could be the debtor’s spouse, child, parent, landlord, neighbor, friend, employer, co-worker, bank, utility company, etc.
Every state and every court is different, so it’s a good idea to find an example of the forms and procedures you need at the court house, a practice guide at a law library, a judgment enforcement training book or forum, or the Internet.
You can get the required forms from your court or court’s web site. The court clerk will tell you which days and times are available. Write or type the date and time the court gives you on the forms. Make sure that the scheduled hearing is far enough in the future that you can have your debtor served.
Make sure you get all parties served, and make sure the proof of service forms are returned to the court. Find out how many copies are needed of each form, and make at least two extra copies, one for yourself and one to show the other party in court, if they forget to bring what they were served.
On the date of the hearing, show up early and check in with the court clerk, telling them your name and capacity (the judgment creditor, the assignee of record, etc.) After you and the debtor or third party are called to appear in front of the judge, you will be sworn in, and then you will be told where to go to conduct the exam. Often the place you go is the hallway, sometimes with no chairs or tables.
If you have served more than one party, it is best to examine each party separately. The fact that some parties will have to wait only helps your effort to persuade the debtor to pay. If the debtor or third party refuses to answer a question or does not bring a document you requested, ask the judge to continue the hearing to another date, to give the party another chance to bring the requested documents.