How to collect on a judgment from a Maryland court - Part I: Identifying the defendant's assets

By JD Howlette Law
How to collect a judgment in Maryland

You just received a money judgment in the District Court or Circuit Court in Maryland, now what? The judgment is simply a piece of paper, and the court does not collect the money for you. Therefore, if you want to be paid, you now need to take some action to try to collect the funds from the defendant to satisfy the judgment amount. This two-part article series will cover the steps that can be taken to collect against a money judgment entered by a Maryland court when the defendant is also located in Maryland. Part One covers the process to discover information about the defendant's assets, and Part Two focuses on the collection process after identifying the assets.

After a judgment is entered against the defendant (known as the "judgment debtor"), the court will send a notice to the judgment debtor that informs them that: (1) they may receive a form from you (i.e., the plaintiff) or your attorney that requests information about their assets; and (2) if the judgment debtor sends the completed form back to you or your attorney as instructed, then they will not have to appear in court to provide the requested information.

Step 1: Send a Judgment Debtor Information Sheet

The first step to find the judgment debtor’s assets is to send them a Judgment Debtor Information Sheet (i.e., Form CC-DC-CV-114).

  • However, you cannot send a Judgment Debtor Information Sheet if the judgment amount is $5,000 or less, exclusive of interest, costs, and attorney fees.

Importantly, you must wait at least 10 days after the court enters the judgment before you can send the Judgment Debtor Information Sheet. This 10-day period is known as the "waiting period," during which no collection action may occur.

  • Note, you cannot add additional information to the Judgment Debtor Information Sheet, but you may strike through information you do not need.

Step 2: Take Discovery to Locate Judgment Debtor's Assets

Before you can take any other collection action, at least one of the following three things must be true or have occurred:

  1. You chose not to use the Judgment Debtor Information Sheet;

  2. The judgment debtor did not return the Judgment Debtor Information Sheet to you with the information you asked for within 30 days after the date the form was mailed or otherwise delivered to the judgment debtor; OR

  3. The judgment debtor did properly complete and return the Judgment Debtor Information Sheet; and

    1. it has been at least one (1) year since the entry of the judgment; or

    2. it has been less than one (1) year since the entry of the judgment but the court has given you permission to file interrogatories (questions) or request a hearing (oral examination).

If any of the above occurred, then you can either: (a) send the judgment debtor a questionnaire, which is referred to as Written Interrogatories in Aid of Execution; or (b) request an oral examination (i.e., a hearing at the court).

  • Note, there is not a standard court form for written interrogatories in aid of execution for Circuit Court cases.

Option A: Sending Written Interrogatories in Aid of Execution

Interrogatories are a set of written questions used in legal proceedings, specifically in civil litigation, where one party (the asking party) sends them to the other party (the answering party) to gather information relevant to the case. The answering party is required to respond in writing and under oath, which means they must answer truthfully.

You may send up to 15 interrogatories to the judgment debtor in an effort to obtain information about their assets, and you may serve the interrogatories on the judgment debtor by First-Class mail (although best practice is to send them via certified mail, return receipt requested). The judgment debtor must answer the questions under oath, within 15 days.

  • Note, similar to the Judgment Debtor Information Sheet, you may not use written interrogatories to enforce a money judgment that is less than $5,000, exclusive of interest, costs, and attorney fees.

If you do not receive answers within 15 days, you may file a Motion Compelling Answers to Interrogatories in Aid of Execution (i.e., Form DC-CV-030). Note, there is not a standard court form for Circuit Court cases.

Step 3: Oral Examination in Aid of Enforcement of Judgment

Once 30 days have passed after the judgment has been entered, you may file a request with the court to have the judgment debtor appear in court to answer your questions under oath. The request is made by filing a Request for Order Directing Judgment Debtor or Other Person to Appear for Examination in Aid of Enforcement of Judgment (i.e., Form CC-DC-CV-032). If your request is granted, the court will issue an order that tells the judgment debtor when they are required to appear in court.

  • Note, you must serve the order on the judgment debtor within 30 days from the date it's issued by the court.

During the examination, you may ask questions about the debtor’s assets, which may include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, sources of income, and the amount of wages received.

Dealing with an Uncooperative or Evasive Judgment Debtor

If the judgment debtor will not cooperate with your efforts to discover their assets after being properly served with either (a) the order noted in Step 3 or (b) the order associated with the motion to compel answers to interrogatories, then you may file a Request for Show Cause Order for Contempt (i.e., Form DC-CV-033). If granted, the court will issue an order that compels the judgment debtor to appear at a Show Cause hearing to explain why they should be held in contempt for ignoring the court's order(s).

If the judgment debtor fails to appear for the Show Cause hearing, the court may issue what is known as a "body attachment."

Before the court can issue a body attachment, you must provide either:

  1. Proof that the judgment debtor was personally served with either the order to appear or the show cause order, if issued;

  2. Proof that the judgment debtor signed for either the order to appear or the show cause order, if issued, when served by restricted delivery mail; OR

  3. An affidavit from a person with firsthand knowledge that the debtor has been willfully evading service.

Once the body attachment is issued (which operates just like an arrest warrant), the sheriff's office will take the judgment debtor into custody and bring them before the court to explain why they failed to comply with the court's order(s). The judgment debtor may be required to post a bond to be released, and the bond will be forfeited to the State if the judgment debtor fails to appear at the next hearing set by the court. You and judgment debtor will receive notice of the date and time for the new hearing.

Once you are able to discovery or identify the judgment debtor's assets, it is then time to start the collection process. Part Two of this article series will discuss how to go about collecting your money once you have obtained the necessary information to discover the judgment debtor's assets.