What to do if you win your small claims case

Learn about the next steps after the magistrate makes a decision in a small claims case.
  • If you were sued by the other party and you won — The other party can’t appeal. 
  • If you sued the other party and won and you were awarded money — You can’t collect the money until the time for appeal ends or until the appeal is decided. If there is no appeal, or if you win again on appeal, there are next steps you can take to collect your money.

Step 1: Ask for payment

The party that wins the case is called the “judgment creditor,” and the party that needs to pay is called the "judgment debtor."

If you won the case, ask the other party (the judgment debtor) to pay the money or to turn over the property, as the magistrate ordered.

Step 2: Attend a payment hearing if one has been scheduled

If the magistrate has scheduled a payment hearing and the judgment debtor doesn’t pay before that hearing, the magistrate will decide whether the judgment debtor has the ability to pay. They may order the judgment debtor to pay immediately or to pay on a payment plan. At that hearing, you have to prove that the judgment debtor is able to pay without using income that’s exempt by law. You may look at their Financial Statement of Judgment Debtor form and present any information to the magistrate that’s relevant to whether the judgment debtor is able to pay. If the magistrate decides that the judgment debtor isn’t financially able to pay any money now, you can ask the magistrate to schedule the matter for review at a future date.

Certain income is exempt from any court payment order. This means that any court order for payment won’t include the defendant’s income that came from these sources. It’s possible that a person who has exempt income may also receive employment wages, which could be subject to a payment order. See the list of exempt income and get more information about payments and payment hearings.

Even if a person can’t pay currently, judgments can be enforced for 20 years if the person's financial state improves during that time.

If you can identify any valuable property the judgment debtor owns (real estate, motor vehicles, etc.) that could be taken and sold to pay your judgment, ask the clerk's office to give you a Writ of Execution after the payment hearing. If a payment hearing wasn’t scheduled, you can ask for a Writ of Execution 30 days after the judgment date. Give the Writ of Execution to a constable or a deputy sheriff to seize and sell the judgment debtor’s property to pay the judgment. Many of a person’s assets can be seized and sold to pay a judgment, even if that person has exempt income.

What if the magistrate hasn’t scheduled a payment hearing and the judgement debtor hasn’t paid me the money? 

Ask the clerk’s office to give you a Notice to Show Cause, which requires the judgment debtor to appear before the court. You must be in court on that day. You must pay a fee to a municipal constable or a county deputy sheriff to serve this form on the judgment debtor, but that amount will be added to what the judgment debtor owes.

What if the judgement debtor doesn’t appear at the payment hearing or after they were served with a Notice to Show Cause? 

Ask the clerk-magistrate’s office to give you a Capias (a civil arrest warrant) for the judgment debtor. You must pay a fee to a constable or a deputy sheriff to arrest the judgment debtor and bring them to court, but that amount will be added to what the judgment debtor owes. Give the constable or deputy sheriff your phone number, and ask them to contact you when the judgment debtor is brought to court.

Step 3: Tell the court that you’ve received payment

Once you have the full amount of money from the court's judgment, you have to tell the court in writing within 10 days. You don’t need to use any particular form for your notice, but be sure to include the court’s docket number. You can also choose to use either the Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment form or the Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment in Counterclaim form to tell the court.

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