Proceedings supplemental hearings are held after a court has granted a money judgment against you. The hearing is to find out if you have any income or property that can be taken to pay. the party who was awarded the judgment (“the judgment creditor”).

YES. Even if you don’t have any income or property that the court can take to help pay off the judgment, you MUST go to court if you get an order to appear.

If you are notified of the hearing and do not appear, the judgment creditor can ask the court to set a hearing known as a “rule to show cause,” at which you will be ordered to appear and explain why you missed the hearing. If you also fail to appear at the rule to show cause hearing, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest (called a writ or body attachment). If you are arrested, you might even have to spend a night or two in jail before going in front of the judge.

If you miss a hearing due to a very good reason, you should contact the court right away and explain your reason for missing the hearing and ask the judge to set another hearing. It is best to make this request in writing, and file it with the court. Put the name and cause number of the case on your letter, explain your reason(s) in detail, attach any documents which support your reasons, and send a copy to the lawyer for the judgment creditor (or the judgment creditor, if he or she doesn’t have a lawyer. In particular, if you were not notified of the proceedings supplemental (for example, notice was sent to the wrong address), make sure you explain this in your letter. If you are still ordered to go to the “rule to show cause” hearing, bring a copy of the letter and documents you filed, and be prepared to explain your absence to the court.

If you missed the proceedings supplemental hearing because you were never notified of the lawsuit, you should seek the assistance of an attorney if at all possible. You should also contact an attorney if you learn a warrant for your arrest has been ordered.

Most proceedings supplemental hearings are held outside the presence of a judge.  You may be asked to meet with the judgment creditor or its attorney, in the courtroom (without the judge present), in a separate room, or even in the hallway.  You will be asked questions about your employment, income and property (particularly cash assets, bank accounts and tax refunds or other money coming to you). 

The judgment creditor or its lawyer may also ask if you are willing to agree to pay a certain amount on the judgment.  If you agree to make payments, this may keep your employer from getting involved (see garnishment, below).  But do not let the creditor or lawyer pressure you into making installment payments you can’t afford.  

If the creditor or lawyer tries to get you to agree to something you don’t want to agree to, you can stop the conversation and say that you would like to go in front of the judge for the hearing.   This may happen while you are in court, but the court may also reschedule the hearing for a different date.

Whether you are meeting with the creditor or attorney, or in front of a judge, you must answer the questions truthfully. 

It is important to know that certain income and property is exempt (protected) by law.  This is explained in more detail at [link common exemptions for judgment debtors]

“Garnishment” is where the court orders your employer to take a certain amount of money from your paycheck to pay to your creditor.  The garnishment formula is explained in a separate brochure [exemption link]. Your employer may not fire you just because your wages are garnished. Some benefits, such as Social Security, SSI and VA benefits, cannot be garnished.

You can ask the creditor to have a lower amount taken out of your pay.  If you reach an agreement on the amount, the creditor will have you sign a voluntary wage assignment.  Your employer will then deduct the agreed amount from your income each pay period. Because the wage assignment is voluntary, you can ask your employer to stop the wage assignment any time. 

It depends. Income you get from SSI, Social Security or VA benefits can’t be taken because it is exempt under federal law.  Other benefits such as worker’s compensation, unemployment benefits and pension benefits cannot be garnished from the sources that pay those benefits but it can be taken after you receive it.  

As with all the sources of income, you don’t have to offer to pay anything and the judge can only order garnishment if the law allows it.

Sometimes.  Generally only $450 in your account is exempt but, if money in your account is from Social Security, SSI or the VA, then all of it is protected from the claims of the creditor. 

A creditor can ask that your bank account be frozen while it asks the court to order money in your account sent to the creditor. If it does, then you should get notice of any request and will have a chance to appear in court to contest it.  

If any of the money in your account is from SSI, Social Security or VA benefits, federal law requires the bank to leave twice your monthly deposit unfrozen.  

For example, if your monthly Social Security check is $800.00 and if you have $2,000.00 in your account, all of which is from Social Security, the bank cannot freeze the first $1,600.00 in your account.  Once a hearing is held, you will be able to get the court to order that all of the money in your account is exempt.  If the money is from a different source, you will only be able to claim the first $450.00 in the account as exempt. 

If you have a problem with a freeze on your bank account, contact our office for help.

No.  A court may not put you in jail or punish you in any other way for not paying on a judgment debt.  As explained above, the court may order your employer to garnish your wages and, in some cases, seize some of the money in your financial accounts.  While in some cases, the court can order that some of your property be sold, this is very rare.  The court cannot order you to pay a judgment from funds which are exempt by law. 

Do not allow anyone to tell you that you will go to jail if you don’t pay on the debt, or try to frighten you to pay more than the law requires.  If a creditor threatens you with jail or punishment, in or out of court, call our office or get another attorney to help you.

If you are ordered to pay more than the garnishment amount, have government benefits taken, fired due to a garnishment, threatened with punishment, pressured into making payments against your will, or if anything else happens at the pro supp hearing you think is not correct, you may call our office for help or seek help from an attorney.