Judgment Collection: Enforcing Court Orders to Claim What’s Yours

Estimated read time 3 min read

Winning a civil judgment with a monetary award attached is followed by the task of collecting. What is commonly referred to as ‘judgment collection’ involves making contact with the other party and working out arrangements for payment. Interestingly though, what most of us call judgment collection is often referred to as ‘enforcement’ within the legal system.

Why enforcement? Because a judgment is essentially a legal decision rendered by a court. It is the civil litigation equivalent of a criminal conviction. Judgments almost always compel the losing party to take certain actions, pay monetary awards, or both. Behind the idea of enforcement is compelling the losing party to do what he is legally obligated to do.

The different terminology may seem like mere semantics until you are actually faced with the task of having to collect. You might start out by talking of judgment collection only to switch to enforcement because the debtor is not cooperating.

The Money is Rightfully Yours

What frustrates so many judgment creditors is the fact that the money they are trying to collect is rightfully theirs. It is rightfully theirs by way of a court order rendered in their favor. But in so many cases, it seems like judgment debtors thumb their noses at the courts. They avoid paying at all costs. Some of them openly defy the judgments rendered against them.

In such cases, you are not collecting as much as you are enforcing the judgment. The unfortunate thing is that courts limit their involvement in enforcement actions. A court might be willing to get involved if you need a writ of seizure or you’re seeking a bench warrant because a debtor fails to cooperate with interrogatories, but that’s about it. You are on your own in terms of making arrangements for payment.

More Collection, Less Enforcement

When a judgment creditor needs to bring in a professional to help with enforcement, you’re usually talking an attorney or a specialized collection agency in Salt Lake City‘s Judgment Collectors. But not every judgment collection case has to go that far.

It is possible to focus more on collection and less on enforcement by working with the debtor to come up with an amenable solution. Experts often recommend a two-pronged strategy that combines working out an acceptable payment plan and offering a discount – as long as the debtor remains faithful to the payments, of course.

Working out a payment plan mitigates the need to be more aggressive with enforcement. Anyone who has had to go after a debtor full throttle understands the value of not having to be aggressive. As far as offering a discount is concerned, sometimes it is better to settle for less than be highly aggressive and risk getting nothing at all.

The Risk is Always Present

The risk of not getting anything at all is always present in the judgment collection game. You never really know how cooperative a debtor will be. Until you start digging around, you will not know whether they truly have a reasonable means to pay. This suggests something particularly important: being too aggressive too early in the game can actually motivate a debtor to avoid paying.

There is an old proverb that says you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. It is applicable to judgment collection. Even though collecting is considered enforcement from a legal perspective, approaching it with as little aggression as possible often yields the best results. Only when a debtor completely refuses to cooperate should you go full tilt. Unfortunately, sometimes you need to think more like an enforcer than a debt collector.

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