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. When this occurs, the parties will receive a copy of the judgment in the mail.
After judgment is entered, the plaintiff becomes the judgment creditor and the defendant becomes the judgment debtor.
Judgment Debtor's Options Prior to Paying Judgment
If the court awards judgment to the plaintiff, the judgment debtor may do one of the following before paying the judgment:
- Appeal the district court's judgment
- File a motion for a new trial
- File a motion to change the judgment
Appeal the Judgment
If you lose your case in a small claims court hearing, you may appeal the decision to the circuit court in the same district. In small claims court, you have 30 days from the time judgment was entered to file an appeal and pay the filing fee. If you don't have the money to pay the fee, you may be able to get the fee waived.
The circuit court will have an entirely new trial from beginning to end and you won't be required to have a transcript of your small claims trial. Detailed instructions for filing a small claims appeal are available from the clerk of the court.
Only those who are parties to a case can appeal. The party seeking to appeal must have been adversely affected by the judgment. A party can't appeal from a judgment in that party's favor unless the ruling didn't grant all the relief sought.
Motion for New Trial
You have ten days after the court makes an adverse judgment to file a motion for a new trial. Generally, requests for a new trial are denied but if the court does grant your motion, you will receive a summons to a new trial.
Motion to Change Judgment
You must file a motion to alter or amend a judgment within ten days of receipt of that judgment. You must file a motion to revise a judgment within 30 days of receipt of that judgment.
Payment of Judgment
If you're the judgment debtor and you're not planning on filing an appeal or a post-judgment motion, you should make payment arrangements with the judgment creditor or the judgment creditor's attorney right away. If you don't pay, the judgment creditor may begin enforcement procedures such as:
- Interrogatories about location of assets (questions requiring written answers)
- Oral examination about location of assets (requires a court appearance)
- Writ of execution to order the levying or seizure and sale of goods
- Garnishment of property
- Garnishment of wages
Questions for Your Attorney
- I didn't receive a final judgment at my trial nor in the mail and it's been 30 days since my small claims trial; what should I do?
- 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?