Collecting on a Judgment
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How do I collect a judgment that is owed?
Your first step is to contact the losing party to see if they will pay what is due voluntarily. If they are willing to pay but cannot pay in full, the court can help you set up a payment installment plan. If the party is unwilling to comply with the court’s judgment, you still have options to enforce the judgment against them. These options are referred to as executions on the judgment. Depending on your jurisdiction these options include:
- Garnish Wages
- Attach Personal Property
- Judgment Lien
Executions vary in procedure and availability depending on your jurisdiction.
How do I utilize an execution?
In order to utilize this method you must first obtain a writ of execution form (the exact name of this form varies among jurisdictions). Fill it out and file it with the County Sheriff’s Office where the party’s employer is located. The Sheriff will then serve the writ on the party and their employer. There are preparation and administration fees associated with filing these forms and with the procurement of any help you may require in so doing.
What is wage garnishment?
Wage garnishment is when the party’s employer keeps part of the party’s paycheck and pays the money to the Sheriff’s office, which then pays the money to you.
What happens when I attach personal property?
Sources of money and other personal property can be attached to a judgment and upon execution the sheriff will seize the attached property. Monetary sources such as bank accounts or a business’ cash register are easiest to deal with because the sheriff simply hands the seized funds over to you. If the sheriff has to seize some other physical personal property, such as a vehicle, tools, equipment, or major appliances, the sheriff will seize the item, sell it at auction and then turn the proceeds over to you.
There are certain types of property that cannot be seized, and if the party believes the attached property falls under such a category they can file a claim of exemption. In addition, if the property is held by multiple parties or in a trust, those other parties can also file a third party claim of exemption.
How do I issue a judgment lien?
A judgment lien is when you attach the party’s real property to the judgment and foreclose on the lien. A party’s real property consists of buildings and land, and when you foreclose on real property you sell the property to pay the judgment. Judgment lien application and foreclosure procedures are extremely complicated and require professional legal help in order to be executed properly.
When can I begin an execution?
If the judgment is a default judgment you can execute immediately after the judgment is entered. Although the defendant is still allotted a certain amount of time in which to try to vacate the judgment, you don’t have to wait for them to exercise that option.
All other judgments cannot be executed until the appeal period has passed. If the period passes without appeal, or if you win again on appeal, you can then begin execution.
Do I need a lawyer?
While there are some procedures that can be filed relatively easily with a court clerk, court assistance officer or the local sheriff’s office, if those do not work you will need to speak with a lawyer to handle the more complicated collection processes.
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Last Modified: 11-25-2013 02:53 PM PST
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