Man could be liable for ex-wife’s debt
Dear Lawyer Mark: I got a notice from the court saying that I have to go there in a couple of weeks for a judgment exam.
The case was about a credit card my ex-wife was supposed to pay but didn’t, so they sued her a couple years ago. I got a copy of it when they sued her, but didn’t do anything because our divorce says she was supposed to pay it. What is a judgment exam, and do I have to go? — Hacked Off in Hanging Rock
Dear Hacked: To answer your first question, a “judgment debtor exam” is an opportunity for someone that has a judgment against you to ask you questions about your assets and debts.
You will be sworn to tell the truth by the judge, and then the attorney for the person that you owe money (the creditor) will typically take you outside the courtroom to ask you the questions. Even though you are outside the courtroom, you must still testify truthfully, and could face perjury charges if you lie.
The attorney for the creditor will typically try to determine what assets you have, and whether the creditor has a right to get a portion of them. For instance, the creditor’s attorney will ask you, among other things, what real estate you own, what vehicles you have, how much money is owed on any mortgages or car payments, where your bank accounts are, and how much you have in them.
They will also ask you where you are working, and how much income you have. The creditor will then use this information to garnish your accounts or paycheck to pay the debt.
The answer to your second question is yes, you must attend the judgment debtor exam if you were served with the notice, because the court has ordered you to appear. If you don’t appear, the court could find you in contempt when you finally show up (and order a fine or jail time for ignoring the court order), or could even order an arrest warrant for you for not showing up.
Please keep in my mind that a judgment debtor exam can only occur after a judgment has been granted. In your case, it appears that the credit card company got a judgment against you, in addition to your wife.
Even though the divorce court said your wife had to pay the debt, if you were on the original account with her, you were still liable to the credit card company, but could make her reimburse you. In other words, you should have answered the lawsuit when you were notified of it a couple of years ago. Because you did not answer, the company took a “default judgment” against you, and was granted judgment by the court.
You should seek advice from your family lawyer on how to proceed from here in the creditor case, and against your ex-wife.
Thought for the Week: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” T.S. Eliot
It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.