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Collecting Money From Your Judgment

In our society, people often say, “You should sue him,” when a business deal goes wrong, or when someone suffers a personal injury or property damage. But suing someone, and even winning, is only the first half of the process. The second half, and often the hardest part, is collecting on the judgment award and actually receiving money for the harm caused.

Collecting A Judgment in Illinois

The process of collecting on a judgment starts with learning what assets the debtor owns. Typically, there are four main sources of money that a creditor can look to for money from an individual debtor, including (1) the debtor’s bank accounts; (2) the debtor’s personal property; (3) the debtor’s paycheck; and (4) the debtor’s real property.

Citation To Discover Assets

If the creditor does not know anything about the debtor’s financial situation and assets, the first step in collecting on a judgment is to file a Citation to Discover Assets and a Citation Notice. The Citation, and accompanying Income and Asset Form, asks the debtor for information and documentation regarding the debtor’s assets and financial holding. It also demands that the debtor appear in court to answer questions regarding the financial holdings.

The Citation itself must state the amount of the judgment, the balance due, as well as identify when the judgment was entered by the court along with the case number of the underlying matter. A copy of the judgment should be attached to the Citation for reference. The accompanying Notice must inform the debtor of the date of the Citation hearing and it must contain information regarding the debtor’s exemption rights.

The Citation is issued by paying the proper fee and having it filed with the clerk of courts. When the Citation is filed, the clerk of courts also will provide the creditor with a hearing date which is then included in the Notice. The Citation and Notice must then be served on the debtor.

At the hearing on the Citation, the debtor is sworn in and the creditor (or creditor’s attorney) then examine the debtor about the debtor’s assets, employment, and financial resources. This can include questioning about wages, bank accounts, real estate holdings, vehicles in the debtor’s possession, and other information learned from the debtor’s tax returns.

Debtors are often uncooperative and reluctant to divulge this information, which is why it is usually in the creditor’s best interest to be represented by experienced legal counsel. Experienced counsel knows how to question a hostile witness and is able to use examination techniques and tactics that help flesh out answers. Additionally, experienced counsel will be familiar with court procedures which can force a reluctant debtor to be more forthcoming with information.

It also is a good idea for the creditor to be represented at the Citation hearing because the debtor may come with an attorney of his or her own. If the debtor is represented by legal counsel, the debtor’s attorney may attempt to stonewall and prevent the debtor from answering questions.

If the debtor is not forthcoming with information, or if additional questions arise based on the financial information presented by the debtor, the hearing on the Citation may be continued to a later date. However, the Citation generally terminates no later than six months from the initial Citation hearing unless an extension is sought.

Day Of Citation Turnover

After the debtor has answered questions at the Citation hearing, the creditor may request that the case be called before a judge. When the case is called, the creditor then formally asks the judge to order that the debtor turn over any non-exempt assets. When a turnover order is issued, the debtor is required to immediately hand over the identified cash assets to the creditor to satisfy the debt. If the turnover order involves property, the order typically requires that the debtor turn over the property to the sheriff, who will then sell the property to satisfy the judgment.

Other Avenues Of Asset Investigation And Collection

There are additional avenues of investigation and collection available to a judgment creditor beyond the Citation to Discover Assets and the Day of Citation Turnover. These include the Citation to Discover Assets of a Third Party, wage deduction, non-wage garnishment, and real estate liens. An experienced collection attorney is familiar with all of these methods and is able to use the best one or ones to collect on an outstanding judgment.

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