How to Collect a Small Claims Judgment

A judgement entitles the judgment creditor to money, but if the judgement debtor does not voluntarily pay the judgment, the creditor must take steps to collect it. The creditor should remind the debtor that additional court procedures will add costs to the judgment. If you are unable to work out satisfactory arrangements for payment, the creditor can have the debtor's nonexempt property seized and sold. This section describes some common collection procedures that are available through the court.

Supplemental Order - To find out the debtor's income and assets

After judgment, you may have the debtor ordered into court to answer questions about the debtor's property, income and assets. Begin this procedure by obtaining a Supplemental Order from the clerk, completing it, and returning it to the clerk to be issued. The clerk will set a date for the debtor's appearance. The debtor must be served with the Order by a Sheriff or Constable at least 5 business days in advance. You are responsible for the costs. You must also appear on the designated date to handle the questioning. You may ask the debtor about employment, assets and other funds owned. You may ask names, addresses and telephone numbers of those who owe you money. You should take detailed notes, so that you may later use the information. When you have the information about the defendant's income and assets, you may proceed with the following additional actions.

Abstract of Judgment - To put a lien on the debtor's real estate

If the debtor owns any real estate in Utah, you can place a lien on it by filing an Abstract of Judgment. Begin this procedure by obtaining an Abstract of Judgment from the clerk. Complete the form and have it issued by the clerk. Then file the form in the District Court in the county where the debtor's real estate is located. There will be a filing fee. From the time it is filed the Abstract of Judgment constitutes a lien on all real estate in the county listed in the debtor's name to establish the lien's priority, a separate information statement with certain informant about the debtor must be filed with the district court. The debtor will usually be unaware of the lien until the debtor tries to sell or borrow against the property, or until a title search is performed. The lien remains against the property until the judgment is paid or expires. The debtor will usually not be able to transfer the property until resolving the lien.

Execution - To seize the defendant's property and sell it at public auction

Once you have unidentified real estate or personal property owned by the debtor, you may have the sheriff or constable seize it and sell it. The debtor may be entitled to claim that certain property is exempt from execution. The full list of exempt property is found in Utah Code Title 78, Chapter 23. All seized property is subject to prior liens in favor of other persons, if any. The proceeds from a sale of the property shall be used first to satisfy the costs of sale and then to satisfy your judgment. The balance, if any, must be returned to the debtor. Begin this procedure by obtaining a Writ of Execution form from the clerk, completing it and having the clerk issue an original and one copy. There will be a filing fee. You should then take to the sheriff or constable 1) the issued original and copy. 2) a "request for hearing" packet (provide by the Court Clerk), and 2) a typewritten list of the property to be seized (including description and location). The sheriff or constable will serve these documents and then contact you to make arrangements for a sale date. You will be responsible for the sheriff or constable's fees.

Garnishment - To intercept money owed to the debtor by someone else

You may garnish debtor's wages, bank accounts, or debts owed to the debtor. State and federal exemptions on wage garnishments will limit your recovery to about 25% of the wages due the debtor when the Writ of Garnishment is served. Begin this procedure by obtaining a packet of garnishment forms from the clerk, completing the required information and returning them to the clerk to be issued. You should then give the entire packet to the sheriff or constable for service. The packet will include a list of questions for the person holding the debtor's money (e.g. the debtor's employer, the debtor's bank) who is called the "garnishee." You will be required to pay a filing fee, as well as a fee to the garnishee. The garnishee should answer within 5 business days. Ten business days after you receive the answers, if debtor has not claimed an exemption, as the court clerk for a Garnishee Order to obtain debtor's money.