You've won a financial case in small claims court, but the heavy work is just beginning. Just because you've won the right to a debtor's repayment doesn't mean she's going to hand over her assets. You may have to go after her legally, even garnishing her wages. While collecting the total debt that is owed to you may take some time, garnishing her wages can help you reclaim the money that is rightfully yours.
Contact the court clerk in the same courthouse in which you won your judgment to ask how to garnish the defendant's wages. Some states don't allow garnishment. Ask the clerk for documents that you might need, like an application to request a garnishment and a copy of the judgment you won.
Follow the directions on the Notice of Garnishment or a Notice of Application for Wage Execution Form that you receive from the court clerk. This document gives notice to the debtor that you are pursuing a garnishment. Send a copy of the notice to the debtor and his employer through certified mail. Check with the clerk if there is a specific number of days in which you have to provide notice to the debtor before you can start collecting. Your state may also require you to send an exemption form to the debtor that may allow him to avoid part or all of the garnishment.
Attend a hearing if the debtor objects to the garnishment. You can also request a hearing if you want to contest the debtor's exemptions.
Apply for a Writ of Garnishment by completing the form the clerk gives you. This form may be called an Application for Wage Execution, Application for Writ of Garnishment or another name that is deemed appropriate by the court. Write your name, the defendant's name, the amount of the debt, the docket number, the employer's name, the employer's address and any other information that is requested on the form.
File the completed application with the court clerk. Pay the filing fee that is required to receive the Writ of Garnishment.
Send the debtor's employer a copy of the Writ of Garnishment and any other forms required by your state laws through certified mail. Some states may require you to send an Answer to the Writ of Garnishment form or to pay a fee to the employer to execute the garnishment. Send the debtor the notice of Writ of Garnishment by certified mail.
Send the enforcing officer a copy of the Writ of Garnishment. This individual may be a sheriff, a marshal or another competent person appointed by the court. You may also have to pay a fee for the execution of the garnishment.
- New Jersey Courts: How to Enforce and Collect a Judgment
- Nedap: Wage Garnishments
- Small Claims Courts.com: The Federal Wage Garnishment Law, Consumer Credit Protection Act's Title 3
- Small Claims Courts.com: Garnishment Final Steps
- State of Connecticut Superior Court: Wage Execution Proceedings Application, Order, Execution
- Each state has its own process of garnishing wages. Check with the county clerk or legal counsel to determine your state's specific laws.
- Some exceptions to garnishments apply. You cannot garnish an individual's wages if he earns less a week than $217.50 as of 2012. You may not be able to collect if the debtor is in the process of filing for bankruptcy. If the debtor's wages are being garnished by another creditor, you will have to wait for the first garnishment to be satisfied before you can start collecting on the garnishment you executed.
Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.