Question: I successfully sued someone in small claims court and now have a judgment against him. What can I do to collect?

The Sauk Prairie Eagle – Ask The Professional Column.  (Jared Walker Smith)

Answer:  Many pro se plaintiffs are surprised to learn that, rather than a check, all they receive after a successful small claims action is a piece of paper. Unfortunately, getting a judgment and collecting on that judgment are two separate issues. Nevertheless, there are steps a judgment holder can take to try to get paid.

Immediately after receiving a judgment, you should docket it. You will also want to docket transcripts of the judgment in any other county in which the debtor may own real property. By doing so, it becomes a lien on any real property the debtor owns in those counties. This does not guarantee immediate payment and there are exemptions a debtor may ultimately claim, but it is typically a good first step.

The next most common collection methods are garnishment and execution, where a new action is filed asking the court to let you satisfy the judgment from the debtor’s earnings or other property, and sometimes recover the costs of so doing. There are specific procedures that must be followed, and like with docketing, a debtor is entitled to certain exemptions. If you are looking to collect on a judgment, please see a qualified attorney who can help guide you through the process.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided as general information, not as legal advice, and does not create an attorney client relationship. Before making any decisions regarding legal matters, individuals should consult with a qualified attorney.

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