Collecting Your Judgment
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
sheriff will turn over payments to clerk.
must file a written request for an order condemning the funds held by
court will order the clerk to pay amounts collected by sheriff to you. You must pay the sheriff's fee.
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.
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.