Legal question about a judgment

Last year my friend got divorced & was awarded a judgment in the amount of $57,000. Her ex has refused to pay the judgment for over a year, in spite of having the means to pay.

Now he just filed a motion in court because, according to him, she owes him $2500 for a debt from 2 years ago (medical expenses for their child incurred while they were still married). Does she have to pay him, even though she has a judgment against him for $57,000? Or can she just deduct it from the amount of the judgment?

Any advice would be much appreciated!

Your friend needs to consult a lawyer licensed to practice in her jurisdiction.

Having said that most jurisdictions allow such set-offs. So if she accepts that she does indeed owe this debt that could happen. Having said that why wasn’t this debt included in last years judgment?

If he filed a motion - that means there is an ongoing court case. Hopefully she is represented by a lawyer. In that case she should ask him or her.

If he truly has the means to pay - I would think there are plenty of attorneys who would take that up for a cut of the judgement.

Technically she can still be ordered to pay him (assuming the case/motion has merit).

I’ve never run across this before, but every case is on its own merits.

If a judge knows that he has a judgement out for $57k and is trying to use the court system to get $2500 from her - I don’t think they would look too kindly.

Now if this is a child support type thing - then I don’t know - as courts are more likely to sometimes view stuff like that as money for the kid - not the parent.

So if an ex-husband has a $1,000,000 judgement against a ex-wife for say libel - that doesn’t mean he can get out of paying child support.

In law this is known as a “set off”. If Its proven that you own me 500 and I ow you 400, the Court will decree me a sum of $100, i.e the balance of the sums.
How it will work in this case depends on the law and procedure in the jurisdiction where the matter is being heard and the specific case facts,

The “debt” was for their child’s braces & was incurred during their marriage (when she was a stay at home mom), so it really is baseless that he is trying to get reimbursed now. She does have a lawyer but her legal fees are so high that she is trying to get advice elsewhere.

Yes there are many attorneys and judgment collection firms that will take the case…but they want a 50% cut, so she’s hoping to get the judgment satisfied in a less expensive way. He was abusive during the marriage & imo is now trying to abuse her with the court system. This is the 6th motion he has filed since their divorce was finalized 11 months ago. All past motions have been denied, but she still has to pay for legal representation.

Thanks for the replies all! Much appreciated!! Any other ideas or input are welcome!

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Legal stuff is best suited for IMHO.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

Geeze - stuff like this makes me crazy - the court system really isn’t set up for poor people. She can always take her chances and file her own response, but depending on where she is - it depends on how friendly they are to pro se litigants.

There are also law clinics run by law schools (my dad used them once) - not sure what else to tell you.

It doesn’t sound like there is any real chance he will win - I don’t see how there is any merit to that - even if she didn’t have a judgement.

I can’t understand - if he has a job/assets - why isn’t her attorney filing paperwork for that? I mean they can do that hourly too.

Too bad we have the “American Rule” in cases like this.

I think she needs to look around for a different attorney or there is something she isn’t telling you. Then again I am just a pessimist.

50% sounds ridiculous to me. But I’ve never hired someone for this, but I’ve filed cases and appeals pro se - and I’ve read the rules for stuff like that in my jurisdiction - and it doesn’t sound like a lot of work here, but I could be wrong for that situation.

I think an attorney fresh out of law school would jump on the opportunity to handle this - assuming he has the assets - it’s easy money - she already did the hard part - she got the judgement. Most attorneys take 33% (for torts) - and that includes the actual winning the case work - which she already did.

I have very little knowledge of family law though - always struck me as extremely depressing.

IANAL but usually a finalized divorce means that all matters that happening during the marriage have been settled and there’s no second bite at the apple. So she should talk to a lawyer and she might find out she has nothing at all to worry about except getting paid the $57,000 he already owes her.

It is extremely depressing, especially because people act out of emotion rather than logic & kids are harmed in the crossfire. He files motion after motion, just to harass her. He is angry because she got sole legal and physical custody.

In terms of collecting on the judgment, her attorneys are quite competent, but this case is in Illinois. They tried to put a lien on his house, but he filed a homestead exemption and won. They cannot further garnish his wages, because the State of IL has a 15% maximum & they are already garnishing more than that for child support. They levied his bank account for $21,000 (the original judgment was for $78,000) but he has since closed down all of his bank accounts (none show up on his credit report). They believe he is keeping his money in his parents or siblings accounts.

Her lawyers recommended she hire a forensic accountant or use a judgment collection firm. Only problem is they are expensive and she needs the whole judgment to pay her outstanding legal fees.

You are probably right & I hope a lawyer will weigh in here to corroborate. She wants to go pro se with this motion with MY help, and IANAL either!

Wow - I didn’t realize they limited to 15%.

At least she’s getting child support.

The situation really sucks, but I doubt there is much she can do as I assume a forensic account costs a decent amount of money. On the plus side I guess that means her attorneys can’t garnish more than 15% of her wages.

Bank accounts normally wouldn’t show up on a credit report. You’d have to check ChexSystems or something like that.

On the PLUS side - at least where I am judgements are good for 10 years and can be renewed after that - and they accrue interest.

If he is really determined he can probably hide whatever (but if there was only $21K in his account - not sure if he had other assets and they were cashed out)

I’d get a second opinion anyway from another attorney.

Or look through his trash.

Law suits are extremely emotionally draining - even when they don’t involve family stuff.

But if they are RECOMMENDING a forensic accountant and/or a judgement collection firm - and she doesn’t want to pay it cause it isn’t “fair” - she has zero dollars now from him and might have to bite the bullet.

That’s why I’d see another attorney - as depending on what/who is paying for who - her attorneys may have a “conflict” - as if she is paying for a forensic accountant - it’s no skin off their back.

A disinterested third party (another lawyer) could probably help her weigh her options regarding the whole situation.

Even with a free consultation - she can probably get a better idea of what she should do.

Thanks for all your info! One more question: this judgment was docketed over 11 months ago and is STILL not showing up on his credit report. Her attorneys told her she didn’t need to do anything…that the credit agencies would find and report it. But they haven’t yet. I’ve googled for ways to report it to them, but everything says it will just appear.

Is there any way to fax these judgments or somehow get them to put them on his credit report? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

This sounds like a contradiction of terms, and here’s why legal advice is best not asked for over the internet.

If the divorce is final, he can’t file any more motions.

So either the divorce isn’t final, and so motions can still be filed … or these are new cases being filed, and she should asked for a dismissal with prejudice.

He can afford it because he has a job? Garnish his wages then. I’m sorry, this hasn’t happened and there’s nothing on the credit report and you keep calling this action a motion … I don’t think this divorce is final yet.

In many jurisdictions (including mine), the DIVORCE can be final (decree issued and recorded, property settlement approved, etc.) while the CASE remains open, so your statement isn’t necessarily correct.

For example, a divorce case involving a minor child will remain open at least until the child reaches 18 and all remaining child support has been collected; either parent can continue to file motions related to the child(ren) long long after the divorce itself is final. Also, a case won’t be closed until a satisfaction of judgment is filed, indicating that not only have property matters been decided, but both parties have actually paid what was owed to each other and if necessary to the other party’s attorneys, the titles on property has been changed, etc.

The divorce is final & the Judgment & Decree is dated June 4, 2015. These are “post decree” motions.

Also as I mentioned upthread, this case is in Illinois and since they are already garnishing more than 15% of his wages for child support, they can garnish no more per state law:

I am not sure how the law works in IL, but their divorce was final in June, 2015 but he has continued to file post-decree motions. In California, vexatious litigation laws would likely apply, but IL has no such laws on the books, according to her attorneys. So even though he owes her $57k, he can refuse to pay and continue filing motions. IMO it’s an abuse of the justice system, but that’s what she is up against.

If anyone knows how to get these JUDGMENTS TO APPEAR ON HIS CREDIT REPORT, please lmk. Thank you Dopers for all the help!!

I think she needs to talk to somebody experienced in Illinois collections law. The 15% limit is for consumer debt, and child support isn’t consumer debt. See Illinois Child Support Services, which indicates that they can garnish up to 50% (or even more if there are arrears) for the kids. This lawyer’s page says that with one child, wage garnishment can be 25% for child support + judgment, but with two kids she’ll have to wait.

Again, why asking for legal advice over the internet is hazardous.

There’s always some devil in the details …

I’m reading ILCS Ch. 40 Sec. 401 … the language they use is that this divorce decree was entered on June 4, 2015 … they don’t use the word “final”.

Might seem nitpicky, but the law is posted on-line. The divorce questions should all be answered with a couple hours reading.


Credit reporting … this is IMHO, so I’ll go ahead a throw a guess out here. I think you’ll have to register with the credit reporting agency before they’ll accept negative credit information from you. You can send them the court documents, but how will they know they’re real? I don’t know what if any requirements they have, but I gotta think there’s some kind of “firewall” there.

Might not be in your friend’s best interest … ruining the fella’s credit will make it harder for him to pay. That judgement won’t ever go away, when the kidlette’s are of age, then the garnished wages will go to the $57,000 judgement. Check to make sure though, here some types of judgements here will expire after 7 years until the receiver files a form keeping it alive.

I sure hope she wasn’t counting on the money right away, that’s always a mistake …

Has he filed an appeal of the judgment?