Congratulations, you obtained a money judgment. Unfortunately, getting the judgment is often the easy part. Collecting is the real challenge.
Will the court collect your judgment?
Unfortunately, it is not the court's job to collect your judgment. It is yours. While you cannot make your defendant have money in order to pay the judgment, if your defendant has money or assets, there are steps you can take.
What is a garnishment?
A garnishment is a writ issued by the clerk of court, upon request of a judgment creditor, used to try to collect a judgment. In Missouri, the court will usually charge $10 to issue the garnishment, plus approximately $36 for the sheriff to serve it.
Can you garnish wages?
A wage garnishment is often an effective means to collect a judgment. It used to be that wage garnishments could be issued for 30-day periods between 30 days and 180 days but under the present rules a wage garnishment can run continuously until the garnishment has been satisfied. If two creditors have judgments against the same defendant, the first garnishment served gets priority. In general, a wage garnishment can capture 25 percent of the debtor's take home pay; however, if the debtor is the head of a family then the limit is 10 percent.
Can you garnish a bank account?
A bank garnishment is an excellent way to collect a judgment, because the percentage limits for wage garnishments do no apply to bank accounts.
Do you need an attorney to collect a judgment?
If the judgment creditor is a business, as opposed to an individual, only a Missouri-licensed attorney may file papers on behalf of the business. But even an individual creditor would be well advised to hire an attorney to try to collect the judgment. Many attorneys collect judgments on a contingency or percentage basis. Attorneys often subscribe to public records databases that are useful in identifying assets. Attorneys can take steps that non-attorneys or non-attorney debt collectors cannot take, such as issuing post-judgment requests for documents to obtain bank records and tax returns, and conducting judgment debtor examinations whereby the debtor is summoned to court to answer questions under oath.
Will your judgment become a lien on real estate?
A judgment entered in the circuit division in Missouri state court will become a real estate lien if the judgment is against all owners of the property. A judgment entered in the small claims division cannot be made into a lien. A judgment entered in the associate division (usually for case from $5,000-$25,000) can be "transcribed" in order to attach as a lien. In addition, a certified copy of the judgment can be registered in other circuit courts to become a real estate lien should your debtor obtain property in other circuits.
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