Special Rules for Small Claims Judgments

There are special rules you should know about for small claims judgments.


The debtor has 30 days after entry of the original judgment before they have to pay you

The debtor has 30 days after the court mails or delivers the Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form SC-130 or Form SC-200) before he or she has to pay you. 

During this time, the debtor can:

  • Voluntarily pay the judgment;
  • Ask the court to order an installment payment plan;
  • File an appeal; or
  • Fill out and send you a Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets (Form SC-133).

 

The debtor can pay the judgment directly to the court

A debtor in a small claims case can pay the judgment directly to the court, if he or she prefers. Often this is done so that the debtor can immediately get proof of payment from the court in order to clear their credit record.

To pay the judgment to the court, the debtor must pay:

  • The principal amount of the judgment;
  • Costs after judgment;
  • Interest accrued on the judgment; and
  • The court's processing fee (usually $25).

The court (not the debtor) will let you know that that the judgment has been paid and tell you to:

  • Complete the "Judgment Creditor's Request for Funds" (a portion of Form SC-145, the Request to Pay Judgment to Court); and
  • Claim the money by either mailing your completed request to the court or giving the form in person to the court clerk.

It is very important that the court has your current mailing address at all times. If within 3 years the court is unable to reach you to tell you that it is holding payment of your judgment, the money becomes the property of the court. If you have questions about this payment, be sure to tell the court the case name, case number, and date of entry of judgment.

 

The debtor is required to send you a Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets (Form SC-133)

A debtor does not appeal or file a motion to vacate (cancel) the judgment (and that does not voluntarily pay the judgment) must fill out a Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets (Form SC-133) and send it to you. In many counties the court clerk will mail a Form SC-133 to the debtor with the original judgment.

Unfortunately, many debtors do not fill out and deliver the Form SC-133. If the debtor does not complete and send you this form (and he or she has not paid or appealed the judgment or asked for a payment plan), you can ask the court for sanctions against the debtor.

If you do not receive a Form SC-133 and need information about the debtor's assets to collect your judgment, you will have to do a debtor's examination. Read Get Information About the Debtor's Assets to learn more about debtor's examinations.

 

The debtor can ask the court to let them pay the judgment in installments

The debtor will make the request using a Request to Make Payments (Form SC-220) (which must include a Financial Statement (Form EJ-165). The court clerk will mail a copy of the request to you.

You then have 10 days to tell the court that:

  • You will accept the proposed payment schedule;
  • You will accept payments in a different amount; OR 
  • You do not want to accept installment payments.

You can give the court this information and your reasons for your response using a Response to Request to Make Payments (Form SC-221) or in a letter or Declaration (Form MC-030).  If you do not respond within 10 days, the court may assume that you accept the proposed payment schedule and will grant the debtor's request. If you do not accept the proposed payment schedule, the court will probably hold a hearing to discuss the request and your opposition.

This payment plan option affects the interest on the judgment as it may stop all interest from accruing until the judgment is paid off or the debtor fails to keep up with the payments. So if you have questions about how a payment plan can affect you, talk to a lawyer or the small claims advisor. Click for help finding a lawyer.

Note: If the debtor already got the court's permission to pay you in installments (through a payment plan) and he or she has stopped paying you (or never paid you), you can ask the court to cancel the payment plan and make the full balance due right away. Click to find out how to ask to cancel the payment plan so you can collect the full balance.

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