Once the court has awarded a judgment, the winning party becomes a judgment creditor, and the losing party becomes a judgment debtor.
No court (not just Small Claims court) automatically forces a judgment debtor to pay. The court has confirmed that the debtor has a legal, enforceable obligation to pay, but it is the creditor’s job to collect that debt.
It can be a lengthy and increasingly costly process, but it can work. Each collection step will require you to return to the clerk, fill out more forms, and pay more fees (they are added onto the judgment amount).
This guide is only for residents of Hamilton County, Ohio.
If I won a case in Hamilton County, Ohio, how can I collect money from the other party?
After a judgment has been entered, the debtor has 15 days to voluntarily pay the debt before the creditor can take legal action to collect. (19 days is recommended to allow for delays in signing, weekends and holidays).
If you won a judgment because the other party did not appear in court (a default judgment), do not assume that the losing party even knows that they owe a debt. You may want to notify the defendant as to what happened and request payment.
You have multiple ways to recover money a debtor owes you. You can see more about each of these methods on this page:
For all collection methods, you pay a filing fee upfront that is added to the collectible judgment. Generally, the most effective methods of collections are a wage garnishment or a non-wage (bank) garnishment.
Continue reading on this page to see more details for each of these options.
You can try to find out details to let you collect your judgment. Your judgment lasts a long time (goes dormant after 5 years of no collections attempts), so time is on your side.
Before you collect from the debtor, you need to know whether they have a job, have bank accounts, own real estate, or own property that is attachable. If you do not already have this information, requesting a Judgment Debtor Exam may be your first step.
On the scheduled court date, you will have the right to ask any questions needed to determine where you might find enough of the debtor’s assets to pay your judgment. The debtor will be under oath, and you will simply ask your questions and write down the answers.
Some possible questions are:
How can I get the money they owe me, straight from their paycheck?
Once the judgment has been awarded, the winning party becomes a creditor, and the losing party becomes debtor. If the debtor is not willing to pay one way of collecting your judgment is wage garnishment.
The garnishment would require the debtor’s employer to send 25% of nonexempt (usually post-tax) wages each pay period until the judgment is satisfied. A guide to wage garnishments and all the forms are here.
For a Wage Garnishment, you will need:
Use this packet of sample forms and guides to move forward with a wage garnishment.
Can I take money straight from the other party's bank account? Or from another source of their funds?
Aside from garnishing a debtor's wages, you can also seek to garnish other funds the debtor has.
Once the judgment has been awarded, the winning party becomes a creditor, and the losing party becomes debtor. If the debtor is not willing to pay one way of collecting your judgment is a non-wage garnishment. The garnishment would require the “garnishee” (usually a bank) to send non-exempt funds to satisfy all or part of the judgment.
Each garnishment is only one payment, so you may need to file again if your first garnishment collects only part of the judgment. Things like social security, pensions and other government benefits are usually exempt. A guide to non-wage garnishments and all the forms are here.
For a Non-Wage Garnishment, you will need:
Are there other options aside from garnishment?
A lien (sounds like “lean”) can be placed on any real estate owned by the judgment debtor and must be renewed every five years. When the property is sold, the creditor will recover the judgment from the proceeds.
(For Auto accidents only)
In auto accident cases, the creditor can ask the Court to suspend the driver’s license of the debtor until the judgment is paid or until the parties agree on a payment plan.
If the judgment debtor fails to pay, the judgment creditor may request that the court seize the debtor’s property, sell it, and collect the judgment from the proceeds.
Although the concept is rather simple, the laws on execution have made it more complicated.
The debtor can request a hearing to claim “exemptions” that are paid to the debtor before paying the judgment. As a result, live execution will usually make sense only when the property involved is worth considerably more than the amount of the judgment.