Enforcing small claims judgments by some means is necessary if you wish to be paid, since the Small Claims Court never collects money for you. Once in a while you will reach a settlement and get paid at the time of judgment, but more often than not, you will have to However, few people pay voluntarily. Some estimates are that two-thirds of small claims judgments go uncollected for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it becomes too expensive, too difficult or too time-consuming.
Many people will place a judgment lien against a piece of real estate, hoping to get paid when the owner sells or refinances. This approach can work, but could take a long time.
Enforcing small claims judgments with bank garnishments could get you paid sooner, but there you must learn how to navigate the system. Here are some general rules to remember:
For wage executions, you have to research to find a job. Most states have a way of post-judgment inquiry that may help determine where your debtor works. Each state is different, and the Small Claims Court clerk can help you learn the procedure. Just trying to find a job could mean more trips to court and more fees to the court.
Even if you do find a job, some states do not allow garnishment of self-employed or part-time workers. You will not be able to take a debtors’ entire paycheck, and each state has a formula to determine the allowable garnishment amount. You may find that there are already other creditors before you, which will delay your garnishment.
And finally, if you are lucky to find a job that you can get a decent garnishment, you have no guarantee that your debtor will not leave the job, which will mean you have to start the whole process again.
If you know where your debtor has a bank account, you can also attempt to garnish it. Once again, there are costs involved. You will may be limited in the amount of funds you will be able to take. Your debtor may claim (and win!) a hardship claim and retain their funds.
Certain bank accounts such as pension accounts, social security cannot be garnished.
So while enforcing small claims judgments using bank and wage garnishments may work for you, they do not work in every situation. You may want to consider hiring a collection agency skilled in post judgment collection to help you.