Originally Answered: Small Claims Court System.When you take someone to court and win your judgment how do you get your money?
Judgments are not self collecting. Often the collection is more difficult, expensive & time consuming than obtaining the judgment itself.
Simplest: Come to an agreement with debtor on payment.
Next: Judgment Lien Recording. Record a certified copy of the judgment to create a "lien" against any real property the debtor may own. This will prevent the debtor from selling or re-financing his property without first paying your judgment. Requirements for recording judgment liens varies widely by jurisdiction.
Debtor Examination: Some courts allow you to compel judgment debtors to answer your questions about their property, debts and earnings. Depending on jurisdiction this may be by written interrogatories or even a deposition before a court reporter. Ask the court clerk what procedures are available in your court.
Writ of Attachment or Execution on Debtor’s assets.
If you can locate and identify physical assets of the debtor you can ask the court for a written order to the sheriff to seize them for a Clark’s or Sheriff’s sale to pay the judgment. This order - called a "writ of attachment" or "writ of execution" - must be served on the debtor with a description of the property to be seized. You will have to deposit the costs of seizure, storage, sale, publication of notice of the sale, and possibly a bond to protect the sheriff's office from being sued in the event the property actually belongs to someone other than the debtor. You will also have to pay the storage charges while the court advertises the sale. These costs can be added to the total amount of the judgment and taken out of the money received from the sale of the property. Before you undertake these expenses check the Sheriff’s records to determine there are no other judgment liens that must be satisfied ahead of yours and check vehicle titles and the public records for liens against other property to avoid seizing something which the debtor doesn’t own or against which there are other liens.
If the judgment debtor owns real estate, the Sheriff can execute against that, but the rules are even more complicated. You'll need to do a title search to determine if there are any mortgages on the property or any other judgment liens recorded against the same defendant which may have priority to yours. There may be back taxes due on the property. The property may be jointly owned with others. In many states the debtor’s home is exempt from such execution. Consulting a lawyer is definitely advised.
Writ of Garnishment. You can also seek to have the court order anyone who holds funds for a judgment debtor, withhold them & pay them to you. This is called a Writ of Garnishment. It can be directed to a bank or the debtor’s employer or anyone else who owes them money. The request for the writ must be served on the judgment debtor and the writ itself must be served directly on the involved bank employer or entity that owes the debtor money. There may be special charges that must be deposited with the court to obtain a writ of garnishment Bank garnishments are sometimes called a "levy" on the bank account. Certain bank accounts, such as those held jointly with someone who is not a judgment debtor, are "exempt" from garnishment. There are special rules involving wage garnishment. You can ask the court to order the debtor's employer to withhold a portion of the debtor's wages from his earnings each pay period to pay the judgment. The law limits the amount of money an employer can withhold and the type of income that can be withheld, and in some states all such wages are exempt.
Driver Licensing Notification . If your judgment resulted from a motor vehicle accident, some states will suspend the judgment debtor’s license until it is paid. Generally this involves filing a copy of the judgment with the state driver’s licensing authority together with an affidavit of non-payment. Call the state licensing authority for the requirements.
Bankruptcy. If you are notified in any manner that the judgment debtor has filed a bankruptcy petition federal law prohibits you from making any further efforts to collect on the judgment. . If you try to collect the judgment under those circumstances, you can be held in contempt by the federal bankruptcy court and may suffer severe penalties. All further collection efforts must then be made through the bankruptcy court. Contact the bankruptcy court to obtain necessary forms and informationSatisfaction of Judgment. Once the judgment and costs of collecting the judgment are paid, you'll need to file a "Satisfaction of Judgment" with the court so that the judgment is no longer officially outstanding and the judgment debtor's credit record can be cleared.