How Do I Collect a Judgment?

If the Small Claims Court or County Court enters a money judgment in your favor, the law permits you (the "judgment creditor") to attempt to collect the judgment from the party who owes the money (the "judgment debtor") beginning on the date the judgment is entered by the court and continuing for six years after that. This handout is intended to help you identify legal ways that judgments can be collected.

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Before you begin collecting your judgment, you need to be sure of the amount of that judgment. Normally, the court will have given you three different amounts which make up the judgment: 1) the principal, 2) the court costs, and 3) the interest. The principal is the amount the court determined the judgment debtor owes to you. The court costs awarded to you by the court include the amount you paid the clerk to file your case, plus the amount you paid to have the summons and complaint delivered to the judgment debtor. Court costs may also include any costs you paid to have subpoenas delivered to witnesses. If you pay additional fees to the court and/or process servers in connection with your collection efforts, those fees will be added to your court costs. In most cases, interest of 8% per year is charged on the principal amount of the judgment. However, interest may be at a different rate if you produce a written agreement with the judgment debtor, which sets a different rate of interest.

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Unless you already know where the judgment debtor works or owns property, it is usually necessary to get that information from the judgment debtor. The court will assist you in obtaining that information if you request an order for the judgment debtor to answer "interrogatories." If your case was decided after a trial, the court may enter an order while both parties are in court for the judgment debtor to answer the interrogatories within a specified time. If the judgment is entered by "default" (without the debtor having appeared to contest the claim), you may request the court to order interrogatories by filing a written motion. Unless you re

.quest a hearing, the judgment debtor will be required to answer the interrogatories in writing, and return the answers to the court. If you request a hearing and pay the proper fee for that hewing, the judgment debtor will be required to appear in court to answer the interrogatories and any other questions you may wish to ask about the judgment debtor's income and assets. If the court enters an order for interrogatories, the judgment debtor may pay the judgment in full instead of answering the interrogatories.

If the judgment debtor does not answer the interrogatories or pay the judgment in full within the time required by the court's order, you may request that a contempt citation be issued to the judgment debtor.

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You may record a Transcript of Judgment with the Clerk and Recorder's Office. A Transcript of Judgment is a one-page document that states the name of the judgment debtor, the name of the judgment creditor, the date and the amount of the judgment. It may be obtained from the Clerk of the Court. Once the Transcript of Judgment is recorded, the judgment becomes a "Hen" against all real estate owned by the judgment debtor in the County. Recording a judgment alone does not necessarily mean you automatically receive money. You will likely need to take further steps in order to get paid.

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You may garnish the judgment debtor's wages. The Clerk of the Court upon your request and payment of the required fee may issue a Writ of Garnishment to you. That Writ must be served upon the judgment debtor's employer and orders them to take out a certain portion of the judgment debtor's paycheck and send that portion to the court in payment (or partial payment) of the judgment.

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Bank Levy

You may garnish the judgment debtor's bank accounts. It must be served on the bank that is holding money for the judgment debtor. It requires the bank to deliver all of the money or assets (up to the total amount of the judgment, if that much is available) to the court. The law provides certain exemptions for debtors and they have the right to file a claim of exemption once a levy has been served.

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Till Tap

If the judgment debtor is a business, you may request that the Sheriff levy upon and seize all cash of the business. This process is usually called a "till tap." If a till tap is conducted, the Sheriff will seize cash from the cash register, safe or cash drawer of the business, as of the time the writ is served by the Sheriff on the business. A till tap may be done as often as you want, but a new writ must be obtained before each till tap.

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Levy & Seizure

You may levy and seize some of the other property of the judgment debtor and have it sold at a Sheriff's sale. Not all of the property of the judgment debtor is subject to levy and seizure, as both federal and state law provides various exemptions for debtors. The County Sheriff must do the levy and seizure in the County where the property is located. The Sheriff will normally require you to post a bond in the amount of the estimated value of the property which you are attempting to levy upon, and there are various other procedures that you must follow in order to complete the levy and seizure process. For example, you will need to identify for the Sheriff what property may be levied upon. There may be some fees and costs that you will need to pay in advance.

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