Debtors’ prison, as it existed in Victorian England, is a thing of the past, but that does not mean that debtors can just wish their debts out of existence or talk their way out of paying.  The civil court system provides various remedies for creditors and debtors to face each other in court; the creditor has a chance to sue for the debt, and the debtor has the chance to argue that he or she no longer owes it.  In a society where people are used to buying things on credit and where stable income is becoming increasingly elusive, the debt collection industry has thrived.  At the same time, people have gotten used to ignoring notices from creditors and hanging up on callers who acknowledge that the purpose of the call is to collect a debt.  Among the legal remedies that fall in the middle ground between hauling someone o debtors’ prison and giving up on ever collecting the debt because the statute of limitations has expired is the debtors’ examination.  To find out more about the way Alabama law handles debtors’ examinations, contact an Alabama creditors’ rights lawyer.

What Is a Debtor’s Examination?

Section 6-6-186 of Alabama law allows for debtors’ examinations; the current version of the law has been in place since 2016.  At the creditor’s request, the court may decide to bring the defendant (the debtor) to court to be questioned about his or her financial situation.  The attorney for the plaintiff (the creditor) may ask about the defendant’s income, assets, other debts and financial obligations, and spending habits.  The purpose of the examination is to help the judge decide whether to garnish the defendant’s bank account or wages and, if so, by how much.

If the debtor fails to appear in court for the debtors’ examination, the court may hold the debtor in contempt and subject him or her to additional civil penalties, or even criminal penalties.  Contempt of court means failing to obey an order by the court.

Do Debtors’ Examinations Help Creditors Collect Debts?

A recently published report in Pro Publica draws attention to the downsides of debtors’ examinations.  The article discusses the situation in Montgomery County, Kansas, where debtors’ examinations are frequent and a judge who presides over them has sentenced numerous people to jail for contempt related to debtors’ examinations.  Economic opportunities in the county are few, poverty and chronic illness are widespread, and many of the debts about which the debtors are examined and punished are related to life-saving medical treatments.  The authors argue that debtors’ exams are humiliating and then imprisoning people because of their financial hardships only adds insult to injury.  Simply requesting to garnish bank accounts or paychecks would be equally effective as a means of collecting debts.

Let Us Help You Today

Creditors can have various options for collecting debts; a debtors’ examination may or may not be a good option for your situation.  Contact our Alabama creditors’ rights attorneys at Cloud Willis & Ellis in for a consultation about your debt collection case.