Generally, the judge's decision will be announced at the end of a small claims trial. The judgment will specify which side prevailed and if money damages are being awarded and the amount of those damages.
Sometimes the judge will want to take additional time to review the evidence or research case law before entering a judgment. After judgment is entered, the plaintiff becomes the judgment creditor and the defendant becomes the judgment debtor.
Appeal the Judgment
Either side may appeal for a new trial. Appeals must be filed in the circuit court within 30 days of the date the small claims judgment is entered by the district court judge.
An appeal costs money. You'll have to pay another filing fee. If the small claims court rules against you and sets a specific amount for money damages, you may have to post a bond in that amount to appeal the judgment. All appeals are filed in the circuit court of the county where the small claims court is located.
Payment of Judgment
If you are the judgment debtor and you aren't planning on filing an appeal, you should make payment arrangements with the judgment creditor or the judgment creditor's attorney right away.
If the judgment debtor wants to keep the judgment creditor from collecting the judgment while appealing, the debtor must post a supersedeas bond with the clerk of the court in the amount of the judgment plus the costs. If this bond isn't posted within ten days from the date of the judgment, the creditor can take action to collect the judgment.
The court only decides who should prevail in a given suit. Courts are only responsible for deciding disputes and not for enforcing their decisions. It is the winner's responsibility to make sure that the loser pays the amount the judge orders. You may collect only from the person you win judgment against. If the defendant hasn't paid you the amount of your judgment plus costs within ten days, you can request that the court issue:
- A writ of garnishment, which authorizes the debtor's employer to withhold a portion of the debtor's wages to satisfy the judgment
- A writ of execution, which authorizes the sheriff's office to seize and sell the property of the debtor to satisfy the judgment
Questions for Your Attorney
- What should I do if I didn't receive a final judgment at my trial or in the mail and it's been 30 days since my small claims trial?
- What happens if the defendant doesn't appear at the trial?
- How long does it generally take to get the judge's decision by mail if the judgment wasn't announced at the trial?