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You need to enforce a judgment you received following a lawsuit. If you sit back and wait patiently, the court will not enforce it for you. Judgments merely grant you the legal ability to use more aggressive debt collection practices, but you have to actively pursue those practices lest the effort you put into suing the debtor become worthless.

Always remember that your judgment enforcement options vary depending upon the laws in the debtor's state – not the laws in your own state. Be absolutely certain that you are legally entitled to enforce your judgment in a certain way before you attempt it. Not enforcing court judgments legally could leave you the defendant in a lawsuit rather than the plaintiff.

Things You Will Need

Certified copy of the judgment
Writ of garnishment or execution

Step 1

Ask the court clerk to prepare a certified copy of your judgment. The certified copy serves as proof that you sued the defendant and won the lawsuit. Without a certified copy of a judgment, you won't be able to take advantage of your legal judgment enforcement rights. Preparing the certified copy of the judgment will take several days and sometimes as long as a week, depending on how backed up the court is.

Step 2

Find out where the defendant works and banks, if you haven't already. You'll need to provide this information when enforcing your court judgment.

Step 3

Take the certified copy of your court judgment to the county clerk's office. Do not get the county clerk's office confused with the court clerk's office – it isn't the same location. Provide the county clerk with your certified judgment and the name and location of the defendant's employer. Ask that the county clerk prepare a writ of garnishment.

Step 4

Contact the sheriff's office. Request that a representative from the sheriff's office deliver the writ of garnishment to the debtor's employer. The debtor's employer will have no choice but to begin garnishing his wages and submitting those wages to you. Keep in mind that garnishment limitations exist and follow federal law. Therefore, if the debtor earns less than 30 times the federal minimum wage, his employer does not have to withhold his pay.

Step 5

Research the public records in the defendant's county of residence to determine whether or not he owns or co-owns any property. You can conduct this research either online or at the local courthouse.

Step 6

Take the certified copy of the judgment back up to the county clerk's office and request a writ of execution if you discover that the debtor does, in fact, own property. You must have the location address of the property that he owns for the clerk to enter on the writ of execution.

Step 7

File the writ of execution in the county's Land Records office. This creates a real estate lien against the debtor's home. A real estate lien prevents him from refinancing – and usually from selling – his home until he pays off the judgment that he owes you.

Some states do not allow wage garnishment but do permit checking account garnishment. Very few states have laws restricting a creditor's access to all forms of judgment enforcement. If a debtor owns no property, holds no job, or lives solely on income that is exempt from seizure, that debtor is judgment proof. Judgment proof debtors are often immune to judgment recovery efforts.

Tips & Warnings