How to Collect a Judgment
A judgment entitles the judgment creditor to money, but if the judgment debtor does not voluntarily pay the judgment, the creditor must take steps to collect it. The creditor can have the debtor's non-exempt property seized and sold. This section describes some common collection procedures.
The Importance of Good Records
If there is a dispute about the amount owed for a judgment, records proving who has paid for what and how much will be very important. The history of a judgment is impossible to recreate from memory. That's why it is important to keep contemporaneous records of transactions.
The court will have a copy of the judgment, and the parties should keep their copies too. The parties should also keep records of all other transactions related to the judgment. The parties should keep the receipt and/or a copy of the check when the creditor pays a cost that can be recovered from the debtor-such as attorney fees, if authorized, or the fee to apply for a writ of garnishment or a writ of execution, or the fee to serve the writ, or the fee paid to a garnishee. The parties should also keep the receipt and/or a copy of the check when the debtor or the debtor's insurance provider pays an amount toward the judgment. Similarly, the parties should keep the receipt and/or a copy of the check when a garnishee withholds wages or other money from the debtor, or when the creditor receives the proceeds of a sheriff's sale, or when the debtor forfeits bail to the creditor.
When moving to renew a judgment, the creditor will have to prove the amount due, including the amount of the judgment, the amount of post-judgment interest, the collection costs, attorney fees, if they are authorized, and the amount that the debtor has paid. When moving to satisfy a judgment, the debtor will have to prove these things. And each party will have a chance to dispute the other party's accounting. Testimony or an affidavit from the creditor or debtor is evidence of the amount due, but contemporaneous written records are more reliable.
If the parties have a contract that establishes a post-judgment interest rate, that rate will be applied to the original judgment and any renewal of it. Under Utah Code Section 15-1-4, other civil judgments bear interest at two percent more than the federal interest rate for the year in which the judgment was entered, and they keep that rate for the life of the judgment, even if the federal rate changes in the meantime. The post-judgment interest on a renewed judgment will be determined by the year in which the renewed judgment is effective, unless there is a contract establishing a different amount. For more information on the post-judgment interest rate for a year since 1993, see our webpage on Post Judgment Interest Rates.
A judgment lien on real property is not a direct collection of money from the judgment debtor. However, the lien prevents the debtor from selling or mortgaging real property until the judgment is paid or expires. Obtain an Abstract of Judgment or a certified copy of the judgment itself from the clerk of the court that entered the judgment.
File the judgment or Abstract of Judgment in the office of the County Recorder in the county in which the debtor's real property is located. If the debtor has real property in more than one county, file in each county. Also file with the County Recorder a Judgment Information Statement.
A judgment lien on real property is governed by Utah Code Section 78B-5-201 and -202.
Identifying the debtor's property
Rule of Civil Procedure 64(c), Procedures in aid of writs permits the creditor, with the judge's permission, to use discovery methods to identify the debtor's property, which might then be seized by a writ of execution or garnishment. The two most common methods of discovery are a hearing and written interrogatories. They permit the creditor to ask questions of the debtor, either orally or in writing, about the debtor's property. For more information, see our webpage on Identifying the Judgment Debtor's Property.
Writ of Garnishment
Writs of Garnishment are governed by Rule of Civil Procedure 64D. Use a Writ of Garnishment to seize non-exempt personal property or money owed to the judgment debtor by a third party, such as the debtor's employer or bank. For more information, see our webpage on Writs of Garnishment.
Writ of Execution
Writs of Execution are governed by Rule of Civil Procedure 64E. Use a Writ of Execution to seize the judgment debtor's non-exempt real property or personal property in the debtor's possession. For more information, see our webpage on Writs of Execution.
Writ of Replevin
Writs of Replevin are governed by Rule of Civil Procedure 64B. Use a Writ of Replevin before judgment to recover a particular piece of personal property in the defendant's possession. A Writ of Replevin is permitted only in narrow circumstances following special procedures.
Writ of Attachment
Writs of Attachment are governed by Rule of Civil Procedure 64C. Use a Writ of Attachment before judgment to seize the defendant's non-exempt real property or personal property in the defendant's possession. A Writ of Attachment is permitted only in narrow circumstances following special procedures.
Sale of Property
Once real property and personal property other than money are seized, they can be sold to satisfy the judgment. The sale is governed by Rules of Civil Procedure 69A, 69B, and 69C.
Consequences of a Debtor's Bankruptcy
What happens if the person who owes you money files for bankruptcy? Many debts can be discharged - or wiped away - in a bankruptcy proceeding. The debtor is no longer legally obligated to repay any debt that has been discharged.
A debtor can voluntarily pay a debt even if it was discharged in bankruptcy, but you must stop trying to collect your discharged judgment from the debtor. In fact, you can be held in contempt of court if you try to do so.
The bankruptcy court should notify you if your debtor files for bankruptcy. This notice will include information about the deadline for objecting to a discharge of your debt.
Some types of debts that cannot be discharged:
- some tax claims,
- debts not included in the list of debts the debtor must file with the court,
- spousal or child support or alimony,
- debts resulting from willful and malicious injuries to person or property,
- governmental fines and penalties,
- most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit overpayments,
- personal injury caused by the debtor's operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated,
- debts owed to certain tax-advantaged retirement plans, and
- certain condominium or cooperative housing fees.
More information is available on the U.S. Courts' Discharge in Bankruptcy page.
Debtor's last known employer
If ordered to do so by a court, the Unemployment Insurance Division must disclose to a judgment creditor the name and address of the judgment debtor's last known employer within 14 business days after the judgment creditor:
- provides the division with a copy of the order;
- enters into a written agreement approved by the division;
- pays the division a reasonable fee established by department rule; and
- complies with the data safeguard and security measures described in 20 C.F.R. Sec. 603.9.
Utah Code Section 35A-4-314.
The Unemployment Insurance Division may audit a creditor or other party for compliance with the data safeguard and security measures described in 20 C.F.R. Sec. 603.9. If a creditor or other party fails to comply with those measures, the attorney general may file an action in district court to enforce a civil penalty of up to $10,000. If the attorney general prevails in enforcing the civil penalty, the attorney general is also entitled to an award for reasonable attorney fees, court costs and investigative expenses.
To obtain an order requiring the Unemployment Insurance Division to disclose the name and address of the debtor's last known employer, the judgment creditor must file a motion under URCP 7. In addition to serving the motion on the debtor, the creditor must also serve the motion on the Unemployment Insurance Division. For more information see our page on Serving Papers. The debtor and the division have the opportunity to respond to the motion as provided in URCP 7. There are no approved forms for this particular motion, but for information and general motion forms, see our page on Motions.
The court may not grant the motion if the court finds that disclosure will have a negative effect on the willingness of employers to report wage and employment information or on the willingness of individuals to file claims for unemployment benefits.
If the court grants the motion, the creditor may not disclose the name and address of the judgment debtor's last known employer to any other person, and may not use the information for any purpose other than to satisfy the judgment.
"Exempt" property cannot be seized. Property exempt from seizure is governed by Utah Code Title 78B, Chapter 5, Part 5, Utah Exemptions Act. See Utah Legal Services' Exempt Property web page for more information about what property cannot be seized.
Satisfaction of Judgment
When the judgment is paid in full, the judgment creditor must file a Satisfaction of Judgment with the court. A Satisfaction of Judgment must also be filed with the county recorder in each county in which an Abstract of Judgment was filed. If the judgment is paid and the creditor has not filed a Satisfaction of Judgment, the judgment debtor may file a Motion for Satisfaction of Judgment. Satisfaction of judgment is governed by Rule of Civil Procedure 58B. For more information, see our webpage on Satisfaction of Judgment.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for renewing a judgment is 8 years from the date of the judgment. Utah Code Section 78B-2-311. The judgment creditor can renew the judgment, but must do so before the statute of limitations expires. If the statute of limitations expires after the Motion to Renew Judgment is filed but before the motion is ruled on, the renewed judgment is effective on the old judgment's expiration date even if the renewed judgment is not signed until later. For more information and forms, see our webpage on Motion to Renew Judgment.