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What to do if you win your small claims case

Learn about the next steps after the magistrate's decision in a small claims case.

If you were sued by the other party and won, the other party can’t appeal the magistrate’s decision on that claim against you.

If you sued the other party and won and the magistrate awarded you 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 may take to collect your money.

Asking 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 ordered by the magistrate.

Payment hearings

If the magistrate has scheduled a payment hearing and the judgment debtor doesn’t pay before that hearing, the magistrate will examine the judgment debtor’s ability to pay, and may order immediate payment or a payment plan. At that hearing, you must prove that the judgment debtor is able to pay without using income that’s exempt by law. You may examine 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 determines that the judgment debtor isn’t financially able to pay any money now, you may ask the magistrate to schedule the matter for review at a future date.

Certain income is exempt from any payment order of the court. Any order of the court for payment won’t include the defendant’s income derived from these sources. It’s possible that a person who has exempt income may also receive wages from employment, 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 is currently unable to pay, a judgment is enforceable for 20 years if that person's financial condition improves during that time.

Notice to show cause

If the magistrate hasn’t scheduled a payment hearing and the judgment debtor doesn’t pay the money, ask the clerk’s office to issue to 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.

Capias (civil arrest warrant)

If the judgment debtor doesn’t appear at the payment hearing as ordered or after being served with a Notice to Show Cause, ask the clerk-magistrate’s office to issue to 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.

Writ of execution

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, after the payment hearing, ask the clerk's office to issue to you a Writ of Execution. If no payment hearing was scheduled, you may ask for a Writ of Execution 30 days after the judgment date. You must 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 may be seized and sold to satisfy a judgment, even if that person has exempt income.

Notification that you’ve received payment

Once the full amount of the court's judgment has been collected, you’re required to notify 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 may 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.

Additional Resources for Notification that you’ve received payment

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