How to collect your money
If the 30 days to appeal or vacate has passed, you can try to collect the money they owe you. To collect, you'll need to know where they have money and then figure out the best way to collect it. As you go, keep track of what you spend trying to collect so you can ask to add it to the total they owe you.
Find out what the other person earns and owns
To collect money, you need to know about what the other person owns, where they bank, and what they earn.
If they gave you their Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets (form SC-133), you can use the information they listed on that form.
If you need more information or they didn't give you a Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets, you can ask for a court date where you can ask for this information. This is called a debtor's exam.
Ways to collect
You can collect from their pay or bank accounts, or put a lien (like a "hold") on their property.
If you know where the debtor works, you can try to collect money directly from their paycheck (called wage garnishment or attaching their wages). You can start the process but the sheriff or other "levying officer" has to work with the employer to get the money; you can't.
For the sheriff to do this, you first need to get a Writ of Execution from the court. This tells the sheriff to enforce your judgment (try to collect the money).
If you know where the debtor has bank accounts, you can try to collect money from them (called a bank levy). You can start the process but the sheriff or other "levying officer" has to work with the bank; you can't.
For the sheriff to do this, you first need to get a Writ of Execution from the court. This directs the sheriff to enforce your judgment (try to collect the money).
If the person owns real estate, you can put a lien on their property. You are filing a form with the county to let the public know the person owes you money. A lien on a property makes is so that if that property is ever sold or refinanced, you may get paid.
To get a lien, you first need an Abstract of Judgment. This is a written summary of what's owed in your case. It is issued by a court clerk. You can then use this to put a lien on the property.
- If a business owes you money, a sheriff can collect from their cash register (till tap) or collect from customers who are coming into their store and paying them or from tenants who are paying them rent (keeper). This can be expensive.
- If the case is about their professional work or a car accident, you may be able to have their professional or driver’s license put on hold.
If the other side has valuable property, like a piano or jewelry, you can ask for a judge to order that these get turned over to you. It may not be worth it if the item has a loan on it.
To find out more about these and other ways to collect, check out resources at a public or law library, contact a Small Claims Advisor, or talk to an attorney.
Keep track of what you spend trying to collect
Collecting any of these ways costs money. You may be able to have some or all of these costs added to what's owed. You can also add interest.
Let the court know if you end up getting paid the full amount
If they pay you the full amount, you must let the court know within 14 days of being paid. You do this by filing an Acknowledgment and Satisfaction of Judgment. You can face a penalty if you don't.
Collecting from the other side can be hard
- You can hire a lawyer to help you.
- You can assign your right to collect the money to a collection agency. If the other side pays, the agency will keep a large portion of the money and pay you the rest.
- Your county's Small Claims Advisor may have resources to help you.
Small claims collection
- If you want a bank levy or wage garnishment, your next step is to get a court order that lets the sheriff take the money (called a Writ of Execution).
- If you want to put a lien on their property, you will need to first get an Abstract of Judgment.
Go back to an overview
See all the steps to take right after you won your small claims case
Get a Writ of Execution
Get step-by-step instructions on how to get a Writ of Execution so you can do a bank levy or wage garnishment
Get Abstract of Judgment
Get step-by-step instructions to get an Abstract of Judgment and record a lien