Skip to main content

Absconding Debtor


One who absconds from creditors to avoid payment of debts. A debtor who has intentionally concealed himself or herself from creditors, or withdrawn from the reach of their suits, with intent to frustrate their just demands. Such act was formerly an act of bankruptcy.

A person who moves out of the state may be an absconding debtor if it is that person's intention to avoid paying money that he or she owes.

It is difficult or impossible for a creditor to serve an absconding debtor with a summons in order to start a lawsuit and collect his or her money. Where a court is convinced that a debtor has absconded, it may permit the creditor to begin the lawsuit in some way other than personal service of a summons.

For example, a franchisee bought a doughnut franchise and opened up a small shop. He also bought a house for his family. Unfortunately, the business failed after a year, and he turned all of the equipment and materials back to the franchisor. The franchisor claimed that additional money was owed to him and decided to sue the former franchisee. A process server was sent to take a summons to the apartment that was listed as the address in the original application for the franchise. The landlord there told the process server that the former franchisee had moved and left no forwarding address. The franchisor applied to the court for permission to serve him as an absconding debtor. The court allowed the franchisor to publish notice of the lawsuit on three occasions in the legal section of the local newspaper. The franchisee did not see the notice and did not appear in court. The court entered a default judgment against him without hearing his side of the story. After that, the franchisor began searching public records to see if the franchisee owned any property that could be seized to pay off the amount of the judgment. He discovered the recorded deed for the house and went back to court, seeking an order to have the house sold. This time the franchisee, who was served personally with the court papers, appeared with his attorney. He explained at the hearing that he had never intended to conceal himself or to avoid paying the money he owed. The court found that he had never been an absconding debtor who could be served merely by publication. The default judgment, therefore, could not be enforced, and the franchisor could not have the house seized and sold.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Absconding Debtor." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . 18 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Absconding Debtor." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . (February 18, 2019).

"Absconding Debtor." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved February 18, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.