Ways to Enforce a Judgment in Oklahoma
Have you ever had to file a judgment against someone and after it being granted had difficulty collecting what was owed to you. Under the law, a judgment is a legally enforceable obligation against another party, and it is your responsibility as the creditor to collect on the judgment granted to you. When a court resolves a civil lawsuit, the court renders a civil judgment. The civil judgment is the official decision by the court regarding a dispute between the parties. In this article we will discuss who is responsible for collecting on a judgment and the process of how to obtain the debts that are owed.
What is a Judgment and Who Collects It?
A judgment is a decision made by the court that one party owes money to another party. A judgment is only a legal ruling and does not mean you automatically are granted the money owed to you. It is up to you as the Judgment Creditor to obtain the money owed to you from the Judgment Debtor. You initially have a declaration by the court that another party owes you money, however it does not give specific instructions on the payment process of the judgment. Therefore, you as the creditor must enforce the judgment on your own terms. This can be a tricky process, but there are many options in executing your judgment.
What is Post-Judgment Discovery?
To effectively execute on a judgment, the Judgment Creditor must first know where to discover the Judgment Debtor’s assets. This calls for a Post-Judgment Discovery process, which is crucial to garnishing accounts and seizing property. After the judgment is granted to you, as the Judgment Creditor you are allowed to request from the court an order demanding the Judgment Debtor to appear at a hearing to answer questions, under oath, regarding their assets. Without knowing this information, collecting on your judgment would be nearly impossible. This process is called a Hearing on Assets or “HOA”. To conduct this hearing, the Judgment Creditor must file an application or motion for the hearing and request that the Judgment Debtor disclose specific information regarding their assets.
These assets can consist of:
- Bank Account information
- Tax Returns
- Titles to Property (Vehicles/Real Estate)
- Business Documentation
- Certificates of Stock/Articles of Organization
How to Collect on a Judgment?
Being granted a judgment is the first step in the collection process. There are various ways you can collect on your judgment, these include:
Attachment is the process of seizing someone’s property to collect on a judgment. In realistic terms, you are “attaching” your judgment to the Judgment Debtor’s assets. Some methods of carrying out an attachment in Oklahoma include recording a judgment, seeking a garnishment, or having the court issue a writ of execution to the sheriff.
- Recording a judgment with the County Land Records, is the simplest form of attachment. Here you would report your judgment with the County Clerk (different from the Court Clerk), in the same county in which the Judgment Debtor retains any real estate. This way when someone reviews the title or deed, they will be notified of the judgment and if the property is sold or bought, the judgment must be paid first.
Executing a Writ is a court order to the Sheriff to execute the judgment by confiscating the Judgment Debtor’s personal property. The Sheriff may only seize the property specified in the writ. A write can be specific or general depending on what needs to be seized.
Garnishments are a very efficient way to collect on a judgment. This is when the court orders a third party to provide money to the Judgment Creditor that would otherwise be owed to the Judgment Debtor. This could be in Continuing garnishments with wages from their job for example or Noncontinuing garnishments with a bank levy for example.
Hiring an Attorney to Assist on Collecting a judgment
The Judgment Creditor has the choice of obtaining an attorney to aid in collecting on their judgment. The Judgment Creditor is entitled to post-judgment cost and attorney fees. Therefore, some of the further cost may be attached to the overall amount owed of the Judgment Debtor. A common arrangement in hiring an attorney is a contingency agreement in which the attorney is paid a percentage of the amount collected from the judgment. With this situation, the attorney does not collect a fee of percentage unless the client collects on their judgment. If you need assistance enforcing a judgment in Oklahoma, call Aaron Bruner, Attorney at Law for a consultation today.