Garnishing or levying a bank account is one of the most effective means for a judgment creditor to satisfy an outstanding judgment. However, to do this, the creditor must first find out where the debtor banks. A common misconception is that you can hide where you bank from a judgment creditor. In reality, judgment creditors have many ways to find your bank account. Here are the main ways:
1. Post-Judgment Discovery Tools
Once a judgment is entered, most jurisdictions, including Florida, offer post-judgment discovery mechanisms to aid collection.
- Written Interrogatories: These are a set of written questions the debtor is required to answer under oath. Questions about bank accounts, banking history, and other assets are standard.
- Depositions: The debtor can be summoned to attend a deposition, which is a sworn testimony taken outside of the courtroom. Here, the debtor answers questions in person, including details about bank accounts.
- Requests for Production of Documents: The creditor can request the debtor produce specific documents that might reveal where they bank, such as canceled checks, bank statements, or tax returns. In Florida, a request for documents is governed by Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.350.
2. Examination of Public Records:
- Real Estate Records: If the debtor has recently purchased property, they may have used a bank for the mortgage or transaction. The closing documents could reveal banking details.
- UCC Filings: The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) governs secured transactions. Creditors file UCC-1 financing statements when they have a secured interest in a debtor’s personal property. These filings might mention banks involved in the transaction.
3. Hire a Private Investigator:
Private investigators can be particularly effective for a creditor to find out where you bank. They may use techniques like surveillance to see which bank the debtor visits or employ other investigative methods within legal boundaries.
4. Previous Payments:
A judgment creditor will review any payments previously made by the debtor. If they have written you a check in the past, the check will have their bank’s information. Or, if you’ve made a payment to the judgment creditor (such as a prior bill), they will be able to see where the payment came from.
If the judgment creditor believes a third party has relevant information about the debtor’s assets, they might be able to depose them. This can include business partners and family members. A creditor can subpoena third parties to produce documents or testify about a debtor’s assets. This is particularly effective when used on financial institutions, employers, accountants, and financial advisors.
6. Checking for Automatic Payments:
If the debtor has set up automatic payments for utilities, rent, or other obligations, tracing those transactions might lead to their bank.
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