Skip to main content
Iowa Judicial Branch
Main Content

Judgments

I won my case, how do I get my money?

Although most people with judgments against them pay voluntarily, some do not. There are court procedures for collecting a judgment when a party fails to pay. Collecting on judgments through garnishment or execution can be complicated and you should talk to an attorney.

You may work with the other party to collect payment without court intervention or, if necessary, you may follow a court procedure to enforce your judgment.

You may also seek garnishment of the other party’s wages. See Garnishment.

Can I negotiate with the other party on paying me?

Yes. If the other party is willing to pay, but cannot pay the entire amount all at once, you might consider allowing the person to pay the debt by making regular payments or by paying the whole amount owed by a set date in the future. Or, you might negotiate the transfer of property from the other party to you instead of money. These types of arrangements are called settlement agreements. If you reach a settlement agreement with the other party, be sure to write down the terms of your agreement, date it, and have both you and the other party sign it. Keep a copy of the agreement. If the terms of the settlement agreement are met, you will need to file a “Release and Satisfaction of Judgment,” form 3.23 available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/court-forms/, under the Small Claims tab.

Can the other party make payments on the judgment?

The judgment may require the other party to pay the entire amount at once or provide for payments. The other party may also ask the court to order payments. See Iowa Code section 631.12 for information on enforcing payments. You may also accept partial payments even if they are not set forth in the judgment.

The other party paid me just the judgment and not court costs. How do I collect the court costs?

You may collect unpaid court costs through execution and should review the information on collecting judgments. You do not have to file a Release and Satisfaction until all costs are paid.

Will the court help me collect my judgment?

Answers to FAQs about Iowa Court Cases, Procedures, and Policies (8.30.21) Page 43 of 68
Using the court system to collect a judgment, also called "executing on a judgment", can be complicated. If you do not understand any part of this information, you should talk to an attorney. The Iowa Judicial Branch website contains more information on executing on a judgment at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/representing-yourself/collecting-a-judgment/. See also Iowa Code section 626.12. Iowa Rule of Court form 3.25 is the required form for filing a “Request for General Execution” available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/court-forms/,under the Small Claims tab.

A judgment gives the judgment creditor (the person the judgment favors) a lien against the other party, but the judgment and lien do not guarantee voluntary payment. A lien is a legal right or interest a creditor has in a debtor’s property for the purpose of securing the payment of a debt. The Iowa Code authorizes a number of liens for specific obligations as well as for judgments.

The judgment creditor may pursue collection through various legal forms of execution, but these also can be complicated and you should talk to an attorney.


A “debtor’s exam” is another way to use the court system to collect your judgment. See next section.

What is a debtor’s exam?

A “debtor’s exam” may occur when someone has obtained a judgment against another party and has attempted to collect on that judgment, but the defendant or “judgment debtor” still has not paid the debt. It is a way to find out what property or assets the other party has that can be used to pay for the judgment. The plaintiff or judgment creditor can question the judgment debtor at a hearing about the amount and location of the judgment debtor’s assets (e.g., bank accounts, real property). See Iowa Code chapter 630. More information is available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/representing-yourself/collecting-a-judgment/. Judgment debtor exams can involve serious legal questions involving rights to property and financial accounts, and you should talk to an attorney.

Once I have a judgment, how long do I have to get my money?

The statute of limitations for small claims judgments for execution purposes is twenty years, and liens on those judgments exist for ten years. See Iowa Code sections 614.1(6), 624.23(1), 626.2 and 631.12. However, a judgment can be renewed by filing a new action. See Iowa Code section 614.3. Questions about statutes of limitation can be complicated, and you should talk to an attorney.

Defendant won’t pay me. Why can’t the judge just put the defendant in jail?

Putting someone in jail is not an available option in civil proceedings.

« Back

© 2022 Iowa Judicial Branch. All Rights Reserved.