How to Collect After Winning a Small Claims Case

Chad William Koplien

Written by

Government Attorney

Contributor Level 13

Posted about 6 years ago. Applies to Dane County, WI, 81 helpful votes



Docket your judgment

The second you get your order of judgment -- be it in the mail or from the small claims judge or commissioner, you need to walk back down to the clerk of court's office and ask to speak to the clerk in charge of docketing judgments. You should docket the judgment in each Wisconsin county where the judgment debtor (person whom you sued) owns property. Then, if the debtor does not pay you, if the debtor's property is sold -- by docketing your judgment it will become a judgment lien against the property, and may help you get paid at the closing of the sale of the property. There will be a docketing fee associated with this filing. Remember - if the judgment is paid, you need to file a satisfaction of judgment in each county where you docketed the judgment!!


See if you can get paid voluntarily

My advice is to send a letter to the judgment debtor, certified mail, return receipt requested, with a copy of the order for judgment and a request for payment within a stated time period. Indicate that if payment has not been received by the deadline or a reasonable payment plan has not been agreed to, that you will commence post-judgment collection efforts to the fullest extent of the law.


Post-judgment collection options

If the judgment debtor ignores your letter and the deadline passes without contact, you will need to assess your options in collection. Generally stated, these options are: (1) retain a collection agency which will usually take 1/3 of the amount collected; (2) have the sheriff seize property of the debtor (will usually involve additional process and your payment of a bond); (3) take no action and hope the debtor sells real estate and that your lien shows up on the title and you get paid at the closing; or (4) garnish the wages or bank accounts of the debtor -- which involves additional processes which can be complex.

Additional Resources

Outside of the collection agency and the "sit and wait" option, you are better served retaining a lawyer, as seizure of property and garnishment are complex matters.

Wisconsin Judgment Collection Website

Wisconsin Garnishment Website

Wisconsin Seizure of Property Website

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