What to do when you get a notice from debt collectors asking about your income and assets

I received an information subpoena. What is that?

An information subpoena is part of a debt collection process. It is a legal document from a lawyer or a court with questions about your income, expenses, and assets. If you get one, it usually means a court made a judgment against you. In other words, the court decided you owe someone money. In most cases, the information subpoena will come in the mail and have fill-in-the-blank questions.

If you get a document in the mail that you think is an information subpoena, do not ignore it. If you don't answer by the deadline, the creditor or debt collector can take you back to court. Usually you have a very short amount of time to respond to the questions. 

Do I have to answer the questions on the information subpoena?

You must fill out the information subpoena and send it back to the creditor, even if you have nothing the creditor can take. If you don't complete the information subpoena, you could be in "contempt of court."

What if I didn't know about the judgment? Can I challenge it?

A judgment is a legal document that says that one person owes another person money. A creditor sues the person who owes money, and asks the court for a judgment. If you don't show up in court, you probably get a "default judgment" against you.

You can challenge the default judgment, but it's hard to overturn. You must file papers to ask the court to vacate (get rid of) the decision. The papers you file are called “Order to Show Cause to Vacate a Default Judgment.” You can ask the court to vacate the judgment if

  • you never got the original court papers.
  • you got the papers but:
    • you had a good reason for not answering or not coming to court and
    • you have a defense to the debt.

Check the deadlines for vacating default judgments. You can also find information about vacating default judgments on the court website here: https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/AfterCourt/vacatingDefault.shtml.

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Last Reviewed: March 21, 2024