Obtaining a judgment against a party isn't the same thing as collecting that judgment. Post-judgment legal procedures are often required prior to any collection. You may find that you'll need an attorney's help as you navigate post-judgment procedures.
Even if you win your lawsuit, don't expect to receive payment from the defendant in court at the trial. If you're fortunate, the defendant will voluntarily pay what the judgment states. If the defendant doesn't pay you, there are options available for collecting the money owed. However, you must figure out a way to collect your money damages without the court's assistance.
Some of your options include:
- Garnishment of wages
- Attachment of personal property
- Judgment lien on real property
- Execution of judgment
Garnishment of Wages
Garnishment of wages is where the money owed can be taken from the person's paycheck. The clerk of court can give you a garnishment application to fill out. After the application is filed with the court, the application and a certified copy of the judgment must be taken to the sheriff's office in the county where the defendant's employer is located. The sheriff will serve the papers on the defendant and his employer.
Attachment of Personal Property
The defendant's personal property can be attached to pay the judgment. The sheriff will seize the property for you. If the property is money, the sheriff will give you the property directly. If the property is something other than money, the sheriff will sell the property. Sales proceeds are used to cover the costs of the attachment proceedings and your judgment.
Judgment Lien on Real Property
You can file a judgment lien against the defendant's real property. Real property is land and buildings. The lien can be foreclosed to pay for the judgment. Foreclosure means to sell the property. The recorded judgment lien will practically prevent the defendant from getting or refinancing a mortgage, or selling the property.
Execution of Judgment
Once you've identified the property the defendant owns, you can take your judgment to the clerk's office in the county where the judgment was issued and ask for a writ of execution. The writ tells the sheriff to seize the property to satisfy the judgment.
The sheriff sells the property and pays you from the proceeds. This process is known as the execution of judgment. There're many laws concerning what the sheriff may or may not take to sell so you may want to discuss this with a lawyer.
Satisfaction of Judgment
After the defendant pays the full amount of the judgment and interest from the date of entry of the judgment, you need to fill out and record with the court's clerk a satisfaction of judgment form acknowledging full payment. The recorded satisfaction must be sent to the person who made the payment. It's important to complete this last step. You don't want the defendant to claim that your failure to record the satisfaction of judgment harmed him, for example, by damaging his credit rating.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can an attorney help me collect a judgment?
- How can I locate a defendant and his property?
- What can I do if the defendant has no income but has assets and refuses to pay?