Official State of Iowa Website

The Debtor’s Exam Process

What is a debtor’s exam and when can it be used?

When a court case ends with the court issuing a judgment against a party, that person is known as the “judgment debtor.” For example, Vora sues Eli, claiming that Eli did not pay the money he agreed to pay for Vora to paint his house. Vora wins the case and the court issues a judgment against Eli. Vora is now the “judgment creditor” and Eli is now the “judgment debtor.”Icon of a question mark

Winning a money judgment in a court case does not guarantee that you will be paid.  Many people who lose in court simply pay the judgment, but that is not always the case. Some defendants forget to pay, some do not have enough money to pay, and some simply refuse to pay. There are court procedures for collecting a judgment when a defendant fails to pay.     

The Iowa Judicial Branch provides information on the different ways you can attempt to collect a money judgment. If you have obtained a judgment against someone, you have executed the judgment (discussed more on the judicial branch website), but the judgment debtor still has not paid what they owe, you can file a request for a debtor’s exam.

Debtor’s exams are covered in detail in Iowa Code chapter 630.

A debtor’s exam is a special type of hearing to find out what property or assets the judgment debtor has that can be used to pay the judgment. The judgment creditor and the judgment debtor will have to appear in court where the judgment creditor may question the judgment debtor under oath about the amount and location of the judgment debtor's assets (such as bank accounts and property).

What if you receive notice of a debtor’s exam?

Do not ignore the notice. If you do not go to the debtor’s exam, you could be held in contempt of court, which could result in you being arrested and held in jail.

Iowa Legal Aid provides more information about debtor’s exams and what to do if you receive notice of a debtor’s exam.