Get Information About the Debtor's Assets

If the debtor will not pay you voluntarily, you will have to find other ways to try to collect your judgment.  Before you start figuring out how to collect, you should first find out if the debtor has any assets that you can go after in order to get the money the he or she owes you.

The best way to get information about the debtor's assets is to ask the debtor himself or herself.  Once there is a judgment, you (the creditor) can ask that the debtor appear in court to answer questions under oath. This is called a "debtor's examination," and you can ask the debtor questions about his or her assets or property. You can ask about things like where he or she works, how much he or she earns, bank accounts, stocks, other income sources, property and belongings, and anything else that can be used (or sold) to pay the judgment.

You can also subpoena the debtor's paycheck stubs, bank records, deeds for any property he or she owns, and similar documents that prove the existence and value of the debtor's property. At the debtor's examination, you can ask the judge to order the debtor to turn over any assets the debtor has with him or her at the time, like the cash in his or her wallet, for example.

To request a debtor's examination

  1. Fill out and file an Application and Order to Produce Statement of Assets and to Appear for Examination (Form SC-134) and attach a blank Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets (Form SC-133).
  2. Also fill out a Small Claims Subpoena for Personal Appearance and Production of Documents at Trial or Hearing and Declaration (Form SC-107) for any of the debtor's documents that you need to see.
  3. Take these forms to your court clerk to file and get a hearing date.
  4. Once you file, have a registered process server or the sheriff/marshal serve a copy of Form SC-134, the blank Form SC-133, and Form SC-107 on the debtor.

If the debtor does not show up at the hearing, the court may issue a bench warrant for the debtor's arrest. 

If the debtor shows up, you will have a chance to ask him or her questions.  During the examination, you can ask the debtor:

  • What type of property he or she owns;
  • Where that property is located;
  • What is the value of that property; and
  • Whether or not the debtor has a job.

You should come to the hearing with a list of questions to ask the debtor. (Click to see Sample Questions to Ask the Debtor.) The debtor will be put under oath, but in most small claims courts you will ask the questions yourself. The court commissioner or judge will most likely not be present while you ask your questions. Depending on the court, you may be in the courtroom or sent to another office or the hall to do the questioning.

If the debtor does not answer your questions or is lying or appears to give you the runaround, you can ask the court clerk to get the judge.

Once you have information about the debtor's assets, read the topics in Ways to Collect From the Debtor that apply to the kind of assets or property the debtor has.