Today, I spoke with a client that has a common problem among many Defendants that have received a judgment at the Circuit Court of Cook County at the Daley Center. This client is 66 years old, has significant equity in their home, and has a judgment, which they cannot afford to pay. For example, let's assume that we have a Defendant that is sixty years old, has $50,000 left on their mortgage, and their house is worth $225,000. The Defendant has a judgment of $100,000.
In the State of Illinois, a Defendant may claim a $15,000 homestead exemption per person. Thus, a married Defendant has the right to claim $30,000 worth of homestead exemption. A homestead exemption is only applicable to your primary residence in Cook County. With the above example, this is the Defendant's analysis. The creditor must first pay the $50,000 left on the Client's mortgage, Defendant gets to keep $30,000 and Defendnat has available equity of $145,000. In the above example, a Defendant has a significant risk that their house will be foreclosed to satisfy the $100,000 judgment at the Daley Center.
However, in many cases, the Plaintiff has the ability to place a lien against the home and even foreclose the home if payment of the judgment is not paid. In reality, a Plaintiff threatens to foreclose a house because it is a powerful scare tactic. Often times, a Defendant can settle for less than the judgment amount because a Plaintiff does not want to pay the attorney's fees, costs and other costs associating with foreclosure of a home. Plus, more importantly, foreclosures in Cook County can be dragged on for a significant period of time. All these factors should be played when negotiating a settlement with a Plaintiff.
Remember that a Defendant at a Citation to Discover Asset's Proceedings should obtain counsel if the judgment is sufficient to warrant an attorney. In many cases, an Defendant's attorney will significantly save a Defendant money and more importantly, give the Defendant peace of mind to sleep at night.
Sean Robertson is an experienced asset protection and post-judgment attorney at the Daley Center. Sean Robertson may be reached at (312) 498-6080.