How Do I Collect Money After a Judgment?

The hard part is over – you’ve won your civil case and earned a money award from the judge or jury. You can’t truly relax, however, until that money is in your pocket. You’re still dealing with hospital bills, property damage repairs, and a dent in your income from missing work. Collecting money after a judgment is the final task. Sometimes the other party (the debtor) will simply pay what he or she owes. Other times, you might have to return to the legal system for assistance.

Find Out Who Owes You (and How Much)

First, make sure you know exactly who your judgment debtor is and how much the party owes you. There might be more than one defendant that owes you money. In this case, your judgment should relay which debtors owe you how much. In most cases, each party will be entirely responsible for paying the judgment, under the doctrine of “joint and several liability.” It is up to the debtors to work out how to pay the judgment. Most judges will order the defendant to pay the judgment in a single lump sum, but installments over time might also be a solution if the debtor makes this request.

Before everyone goes their separate ways, the debtor will need to complete a disclosure statement during a debtor’s examination as a means of collateral. The statement will list all assets the debtor owns, including inheritances, trusts, bank accounts, investments, personal property, real estate, and business ownership. Failure to disclose this information can put the debtor in contempt of court. The debtor can end up under arrest if he or she skips out on the order of examination. In the future, you could seize one or more of the debtor’s assets as payment, if the debtor does not pay the judgment.

Take Matters into Your Own Hands

For the most part, debtors will pay judgments on their own to avoid repercussions like fines and further costs. If this is the case, you will receive the money (typically in the form of checks) and file a Satisfaction of Judgment form with the courts. Unfortunately, there are some situations in which the debtor cannot or stubbornly refuses to pay the judgment. In this case, you will need to take further legal action to get your money. The court is not a debt collection agency and will not help you.

If your case comes to the point where the debtor will not cooperate and refuses to pay, you might be able to take your judgment by docking wages. File a written notice of your intent to do so with the debtor. Find the forms you will need on the court’s website. Then, ask the court for a Writ of Execution, which will ask the sheriff to begin docking the debtor’s wages or a bank account for your judgment.

If you want to levy the judgment from a bank account, there are additional documents you must give to the sheriff. The money will then come to you from the debtor’s wages or bank accounts until he or she satisfies the debts. Talk to an attorney for assistance with judgment collection to make sure you get what the debtor owes you.