After a long process, you've achieved victory in small claims court. Yet, the battle doesn't end there. Collecting the judgment might become another challenging task, especially if the debtor is unwilling to pay. Here are some proven strategies to assert your rights and get your rightfully owed money.
Know the Basics
Small claims court is a powerful tool but extends only so far. Remember, a judgment is merely a legal recognition that the debtor owes you money. It doesn't automatically guarantee payment. Thus, it becomes your responsibility to collect what is due.
Familiarize Yourself with the Debtor's Assets
Understanding the debtor's financial position is vital. Information about their employment, real estate, personal property, or other assets is invaluable. While obtaining this information might be challenging, you can use post-judgment discovery tools, including interrogatories, depositions, or document requests.
Initiate a Wage Garnishment
If the debtor is gainfully employed, consider wage garnishment as a means of payment. Garnishment involves a portion of the debtor's paycheck being directly given to you until the debt is paid in full. It requires court approval, so be prepared to provide the necessary documentation.
Place a Property Lien
Placing a lien on their property can be a fruitful strategy if the debtor owns real estate. A lien means that if the property is sold, you'll be paid out of the proceeds before the debtor receives any funds. However, be aware that establishing a lien varies significantly by jurisdiction.
Levy Bank Accounts
You can levy their bank account if you know where the debtor banks. Levying a bank account allows you to withdraw funds to satisfy the judgment; however, a levy requires an order from the court and typically involves a sheriff or marshal serving the order to the bank.
Involve a Collection Agency
While sharing a portion of your judgment with a third party might seem unappealing, employing a collection agency can be worthwhile. Collection agencies have the resources, tools, and expertise to locate assets and can help you collect your judgment more efficiently.
Pursue Contempt of Court
If a debtor refuses payment despite your efforts, you can ask the court to hold them in contempt. If found guilty, the debtor could face fines or even jail time. This step should be considered a last resort, given its seriousness.
Navigating the complex world of judgment collection can be overwhelming, but it's essential to maintain hope and patience. With diligent research, careful planning, and perseverance, you'll maximize your chances of claiming what is rightfully yours.
For more info about judgment collection, contact a local company.