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Collecting Your Judgment 

  

Payment Is Not Guaranteed 

  

Winning a civil judgment for money damages is no guarantee you'll be paid.  Although most people pay voluntarily, some do not.  Some defendants simply neglect to pay, some do not have the means to pay, and some simply refuse to pay.  There are court procedures for collecting a judgment when a defendant fails to pay.  

  

Negotiate Payment 

 

If the defendant is willing to pay, but cannot pay the entire amount all at once, you might consider allowing the person to satisfy the debt by installment payments or at a fixed date in the future.  Or, you might negotiate the transfer of property from the defendant to you in lieu of money.  Be sure to put down the terms of your settlement agreement in writing, and have it dated and signed by both parties. 

 

Execution of a Judgment 

 

If a defendant refuses to cooperate, there are court procedures you can follow to enforce your judgment.  The most commonly used procedure is called execution of a judgment.  Before you initiate court action, you should try to identify any assets or property belonging to the defendant and determine the location of this property and/or identify the defendant's place of employment.  Once you have this information, you may proceed.    

  

  • You must prepare and file a document called a praecipe that contains the case heading (i.e., case name and number, and the district court in which the judgment is filed) and that directs the clerk of court to issue an execution directed to the sheriff of the county where the asset or property is located.  You must pay the court fee when you file the praecipe. 

  

  • The clerk will prepare and issue a document that indicates the entry and amount of judgment and directs the county sheriff to seize specific property or assets of defendant's or garnish defendant's wages (general execution).  If an execution involves real estate, you need to provide the clerk with a legal description of the property. 

  

  • The sheriff will serve execution papers on any asset custodian such as a bank, credit union, or other financial institution, or the defendant's employer.  The sheriff will collect payment or seize personal property, or if real estate is involved the sheriff will initiate a sale of the property.

  

  • The sheriff will turn over payments to clerk.

  

  • You must file a written request for an order condemning the funds held by clerk. 

  

  • The court will order the clerk to pay amounts collected by sheriff to you.  You must pay the sheriff's fee.

  

  • The sheriff will continue collection efforts until judgment is satisfied or for a 120-day period.  If judgment is not fully satisfied within 120 days, you may repeat the process. 

  

Debtor's Exam   

 

This is a process available to someone who has obtained a judgment against another party and has attempted an execution on the judgment, but the judgment debtor still has not paid the debt.  In this situation, you can file a request for a debtor's exam.  Both parties will have to appear in court where the judgment creditor may question the judgment debtor under oath regarding the amount and location of the judgment debtor's assets (e.g., bank accounts, real property).  See Iowa Code chapter 630.  

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