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Winning a case is often just the first part of a civil court battle. The second part: judgment collection. Even if you win in small claims court, you may be left wondering how to collect a judgment.
And it can seem like a daunting task. Defendants generally don't like losing. They also don't like paying up.
How can you collect what you're owed? Here are some simple tips to help you collect:
How to Collect a Judgment Tip #1: Familiarize yourself with your jurisdiction's rules.
Many courts have self-help centers or informative websites that lay out rules and regulations. In California the debtor has 30 days after the judgment to pay the creditor. Rules like this one may be different depending on what state you're in, so it's important to search for regulations in your jurisdiction.
How to Collect a Judgment Tip #2: Contact the other party.
Send the proper court documents and a letter to the defendant in the case requesting payment. Make sure you include all the necessary information.
How to Collect a Judgment Tip #3: Utilize the court system.
If the defendant does not respond to your letter, there are other routes to collect a judgment. Depending on where you live, courts may order the sheriff to seize property or assets from the debtor. It's also possible that you can ask for post-judgment discovery to determine if the debtor has any assets. You might also be able to ask the court to put a lien on the defendant's property or garnish their wages.
If your judgment collection isn't successful, you might want to consider contacting a debt collection agency or an attorney for more assistance. Or, ask if there are any non-profit agencies or free services to help you collect a judgment. Keep in mind that in many states, judgments are valid for 10 years (but may be renewable).
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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