Ask Andy: Collecting a judgment - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andy Wise

Ask Andy: Collecting a judgment

"Angelica" of Cordova, TN, sued a woman who stole her identity. The judge awarded Angelica a $5,000 judgment, but Angelica hasn't seen a single dollar of it.

That was eight years ago.  Angelica says she's tried everything to collect it:

"I have (the defendant's) place of residence, her Social Security number and her date of birth. I am getting very frustrated on attempting to obtain this judgment because I continue to run into dead ends..."

Angelica has learned the hard way that winning a judgment isn't enough.  You or your lawyer have to do the work to collect it, starting at the clerk's office of the court where you won it.

Here are your options, according to my legal sources and court officials.  Each will cost you some sort of filing fee:

WAGE GARNISHMENT.  You file to garnish the guy's wages right out of his paycheck -- assuming he has a job.  

PROPERTY LIEN/LEVY. File a lien to collect on the defendant's real estate or car. File a levy to go after a checking or savings account.

* CONDITIONAL JUDGMENT.  If the jerk won't respond to a garnishment, lien or levy, you can file a conditional judgment with his employer. That will force the employer to put pressure on him to pay.  

SUBPOENA IN AID OF EXECUTION.  If all else fails, file one of these.  A subpoena in aid of execution forces the defendant back to court with his bank statements, checkbooks, account numbers, any assets that can be liquidated to collect your judgment.  If the defendant doesn't show up, the judge may hold him in contempt, and that could land him in jail.

In Tennessee, a civil judgment is good for ten years, so the clock's ticking on Angelica. She can file to renew it for another decade, but she can only do that once. 

She also has the option of filing a post-judgment.  That would allow her to add ten percent interest on the balance of the judgment for every year the defendant doesn't pay. 

Still, none of these are a guarantee that the defendant will pay up.  You will have to decide whether the additional time and filing fees are worth the effort.

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