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 it necessary to retain an attorney to assist you in 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.
Your collection options include:
- Financial disclosure hearing
- Trustee process against earnings
- Judgment lien
- Writ of Execution
Financial Disclosure Hearing
You can request the court to hold a financial disclosure hearing. The defendant is required to testify about his ability to pay the judgment. If the court issues a payment order against the defendant, you can file a motion for contempt if the defendant fails to comply with the order.
Trustee Process against Earnings
You can file a motion to have the defendant's employer withhold money from the defendant's wages to pay the judgment. The employer is known as the trustee. You're required to provide notice to the trustee about the hearing on the motion.
If a judgment is entered by the court against the defendant, you have a right to record a judgment lien in the clerk's office of any town where the defendant's property is located. You can record a lien at any time within eight years from the final judgment date.
Writ of Execution
After you have a judgment lien, you may have the sheriff seize the defendant's property if the judgment hasn't been paid. However, Vermont law exempts many types of property from the collection of a judgment, such as a homestead.
Once you've identified the property the defendant owns, you must 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 are 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.
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?