How the Law Impacts a Judgment Creditor’s Ability to Collect


Assuming the hard work is done once a court enters a judgment in favor of a creditor is unwise. Indeed, the work has only just begun in so many cases. That’s because judgment debtors are not always the most cooperative people. And in their efforts to avoid paying, they have the law on their side.

Despite having lost in court, judgment debtors have the benefit of state laws designed to protect them from overzealous creditors who might cross an unacceptable line in their efforts to get paid. It is understandable that judgment creditors would feel as though the law works against them. But it is what it is. Creditors and their representatives need to work within the confines of a law.

Needless to say that the law impacts a judgment creditor’s ability to collect. And because laws differ from one state to the next, the impact is not always the same. It is not a stretch to say that every case is different.

When Collection Efforts Can Begin

One of the first legal points a judgment creditor must consider is when collection efforts can actually begin in earnest. Judgment Collectors, a Utah collection agency that works on judgment cases in eleven states, says that states have their individual standards.

Some states, like California, distinguish between small claims and civil cases. Collection efforts in a small claims case can’t begin until 30 days after the fact. But collection efforts on a civil case can begin immediately, unless the court orders a stay pending appeal.

Other states do not distinguish between different types of civil judgments. Some require a 30-day delay to allow time for appeal. Others allow judgment creditors to begin collection efforts as soon as the court clerk enters a judgment.

Which Tools Are Available

Do a quick Google search on how to go about collecting judgments and you will discover plenty of articles discussing the tools of the trade, so to speak. Those tools include:

  • Wage garnishment.
  • Bank account garnishment.
  • Judgment liens.
  • Asset seizure.

The challenge is knowing which tools are available in a particular state. Not all states offer every tool on the list. Furthermore, states differ in how those tools can be used. Take wage garnishment. Some states only allow it for recovering certain kinds of debts. Others allow garnishment as a judgment collection tool but limit the amount of money a creditor can take.

When it comes to seizing assets, some states restrict a creditor’s choices. For example, it is not unusual for states to not allow creditors to go after primary residences. Yet even when a debtor’s home is up for grabs, most states protect at least a certain percentage of its value via a homestead exemption.

Motions, Court Filings, Etc.

Throughout the entire collection process, there are court filings to deal with. There are also motions, including a motion to compel a judgment debtor to participate in interrogatories. With every court filing and motion there is paperwork involved. Documents need to be filed with the appropriate courts and within acceptable deadlines.

Taking someone to civil or small claims court often seems like an easy solution. Just get a judgment and payment will be forthcoming. Right? Not so fast. It’s often easier to get a judgment than to collect one. That’s why companies like Judgment Collectors do so well.

At the end of the day, a judgment is a legal decision. It triggers additional legal maneuvering that can make collecting difficult. The bottom line is that the law impacts a judgment creditor’s ability to collect. Whether or not it is fair is open for debate.

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