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How Do I Collect a Judgment?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Once a creditor has obtained a judgment against a debtor, he or she must still collect on the judgment. Jurisdictions will have different procedures and rules by which a creditor may collect a judgment; however, the basic process is generally similar. The creditor must first wait for the appeals period to run and then summon the debtor back into court for a proceeding supplemental to determine if the debtor has the ability to pay the debt. If the court is convinced that the debtor has assets or income that may be used to collect a judgment, then a writ of execution or garnishment may be requested.

In many cases, actually obtaining a judgment against someone is the easy part. A judgment, however, is just a court determination that the money is legally owed to the creditor. The creditor must then enforce, or collect, a judgment. Before a creditor may summon the debtor back to court to attempt to enforce the judgment, he or she must wait for the appeals period to run. In the United States, the period of time that a debtor has to appeal a judgment is generally 30 days, although it may be longer or shorter depending on the jurisdiction.

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Once the time frame to appeal the judgment has passed, the creditor may file a motion for proceeding supplemental, sometimes called a "debtor's interview," among other similar names. The court will then order the debtor back into court to answer questions regarding his or her income and assets. Within the United States, both federal and state laws exempt certain income and assets from garnishment or execution to collect a judgment; however, non-exempt assets or income may be available to satisfy the judgment.

If it appears as though the debtor has non-exempt assets or income, then the creditor may ask the court to order a garnishment or a writ of execution. While the precise names may vary by jurisdiction, the concepts remain the same. A garnishment may apply to income or to a bank account. If the court orders a garnishment, then a portion of the debtor's income each pay period will be deducted and sent to the court toward satisfaction of the judgment. A bank account may also be garnished to collect a judgment by ordering the bank to freeze the funds and send them to the court.

A writ of execution is a court order that orders property of the defendant's to be seized and sold with the proceeds used to satisfy a judgment. Within the United States, state laws vary widely with regard to what property may be executed upon. In some states, almost all property of a debtor may be executed upon, while, in others, a creditor may only be able to execute on certain personal property or on business property only.

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