Collecting the Judgment

If the judge makes a decision in favor of the plaintiff (the credit card company), the plaintiff (now called a judgment creditor) can start collecting the judgment right away as long as:

  1. The judgment has been entered. You can check the court records to confirm that that the judgment has been entered; and
  2. There is no stay (suspension or postponement) on enforcement of the order due to an appeal, a stay from a bankruptcy case, or other legal action.

The court will not collect the money for the creditor. But the court will issue the orders and other documents required to force you (the debtor) to pay.

The creditor cannot use illegal ways to collect the judgment
As a debtor, you may be protected from abusive or unfair ways to collect the debt.

To collect the debt, the creditor should NOT:

  • Lie or make misleading statements to collect a debt;
  • Harass you;
  • Ask another person for more than basic information about where you are;
  • Tell your employer or other people that you owe the creditor money (except when the creditor gets an earnings withholding order from the court); or
  • Get in touch with you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. or at any time or place that is not convenient.

 

Tools creditors can use to collect a judgment

Putting a lien on your real property
The creditor can file a lien on your property. This can convert the judgment from an unsecured debt to a secured debt. This way when you try to sell or refinance your home, the creditor can get paid the judgment plus accrued interest from the escrow. If the creditor chooses not to wait for you to sell or refinance the property, the creditor can try to “foreclose” on the judgment lien. This means that the creditor forces you to sell the property and pay what you owe with that money. This only works when there is enough equity in the property to pay all the liens as well as the costs of foreclosure.

Collecting from your wages
If you are employed, the creditor can get an Earnings Withholding Order to garnish your wages until the debt is paid. The creditor has the right to collect up to 25% of the amount over the federal minimum wage that you earn (as long as it is not exempt under other rules). This only works if you are employed by someone else. A wage garnishment does not work against someone who is self-employed.

If the creditor gets an Earnings Withholding Order and sends it to your employer, you have 10 days to file a Claim of Exemption (Form WG-006). If you do file this claim, the creditor has the right to oppose it. Learn more about wage garnishments and how to ask for a claim of exemption.

Collecting money from your bank account
The creditor can get a levy on your bank account. The creditor will need to know the branch where the account is kept and, usually, the account number as well.

You have 10 days to oppose the bank levy before the sheriff sends the money to the creditor. You have to file a Claim of Exemption (Form EJ-160) to try to stop this. If you do, the creditor then has the right to oppose it. The court then may have a hearing to decide whether to turn all or some of the money over to the creditor or let you keep it. Learn more about non-wage garnishments and other levies and how to ask for a claim of exemption.

Putting a lien on your personal property
The creditor can have the sheriff take your personal property and sell it at public auction to pay the debt. Doing this is fairly expensive, so unless your personal property is worth a lot, it is not in the creditor’s interest to follow this procedure.

Renew the judgment

Money judgments automatically expire (run out) after 10 years. To prevent this from happening, the creditor must file a request for renewal of the judgment with the court BEFORE the 10 years run out. If the judgment is not renewed, it will not be enforceable any longer and you will not have to pay any remaining amount of the debt.

Once a judgment has been renewed, it cannot be renewed again until 5 years later. But it has to be renewed at least every 10 years or it will expire.

When the judgment is renewed, the interest that has accrued will be added to the principal amount owing. From that point on the creditor is entitled to interest on the accrued interest.

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