1. Fill out a Citation to Discover Assets
The first step is to fill out a Citation to Discover Assets. If you already know where the debtor works or where the debtor has a bank account, you can skip the citation process and move directly to collecting the judgment.
To fill out the citation form, you will need the following information:
- The amount of the judgment
- The date when the judgment was entered
- The amount still owed to you, including interest that has accrued
- The case number for the court case in which the judgment was entered
Some circuit clerk's offices have their own Citation to Discover Assets and Citation Notice forms that they want you to use. If this is the case in the county in which you filed your action, you should ask whether you must use their forms or the standard forms.
2. File the citation
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Most counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If your county allows paper filing, or you have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations. The clerk will stamp your forms. This stamp is important because it's proof that you filed the form with the court. They will give you a copy for your records.
How you will find out about the court date (or hearing date) and time depends on how you filed your case.
- E-filing: The website you used to electronically file may let you pick your court date (or hearing date) and time. If it does not, contact the clerk.
- Paper filing: If you filed in person at the courthouse, the clerk will let you pick or they may pick for you.
You must send the Notice and the Citation by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested and restricted delivery. Restricted delivery means that if the mail is to a person, only that person can sign for the envelope.
Note: If you are using a third-party citation, for example to a bank, you will not send the notice to the bank and to the debtor at the same time. You will send the citation to the bank first.
3. Go to the citation hearing
Go to court on the date and time on the citation. At the beginning of the hearing you should tell the judge the amount of the judgment and how much the debtor still owes you.
If the debtor is at the hearing, the judge will swear the debtor in. This means asking the debtor to take an oath to tell the truth.
Then, the judge will probably send you and the debtor out into the hall, so that you will be able to ask questions about the debtor's income and assets. You will be able to find out where the debtor is employed, how much money the job pays, whether the debtor owns any real estate, and where the debtor has any bank accounts.
The debtor might ask the judge for exemptions that apply to his or her income and property. In some counties, the court uses a form which the debtor fills out to report his or her income and property.
You have the right to represent yourself in court. However, you will be expected to follow the court's rules and procedures when representing yourself. The judge and court staff are not allowed to give you advice or help you with your case. To navigate the court system, you need to know some basic information about your case. Most of the information should be listed on court papers:
- Plaintiff's or Petitioner's name
- Defendant's or Respondent's name
- Case number
- Judicial circuit
If you are filing a case, you are called the plaintiff. If a case has been filed against you, you are called the defendant. In some cases, the plaintiff is called the petitioner, and the defendant is called the respondent.
- Be polite and dress the way you would for a job interview;
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time;
- Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check-in quietly with the courtroom staff;
- Wait for your name and case number to be called;
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself;
- Explain briefly what you want out of the case;
- After listening to you and to the other side, the judge tells you what happens next.
4. Collect the judgment from the debtor’s property or wages
If the debtor has money or property, the judge might order the debtor to give it to you. This is called a turnover order. If you have gone into the hall to talk to the debtor, ask the debtor to stay, then go back in front of the judge to make your request for the turnover order.
If the debtor has money or property that is held by someone else, like a bank, you can file a Citation to Discover Assets to a Third Party. The judge can then order the bank to give you money out of the debtor's bank account.
If the debtor has a job, you can get the employer to give you a portion of the debtor's paycheck until the judgment is paid off.
If the debtor does not show up to the hearing, you can ask the judge for a Rule to Show Cause.
Whatever the judge decides to do, make sure that there is a court order before you leave the courthouse. Some judges will fill out and sign an order. Other judges will tell you to fill out the order, or may ask a lawyer who is in the courtroom on another case to help you by filling out an order. Many order forms are in triplicate, meaning an original with two copies. This makes it easier to have a copy for yourself and one for the debtor. The original will be for the court record.
Once the judge signs the order, either the clerk who is in the courtroom will stamp it and give you and the debtor each a stamped copy, or you will have to take it to the circuit clerk's office to file it.
You should be certain you have a stamped copy of any order that is entered in the case. Keep this copy for your own records. If you lose your copy, you can request another copy from the circuit clerk's office.
If the debtor leaves court without his or her copy, or does not come to court, you must send a copy of the order to the debtor so that the debtor has notice of whatever happened in court..
Note about repeated citations: You may use the citation procedure against a debtor or a third party only once, unless you have special permission of the court.
Updated: January 2017