Collecting an Installment Payment Judgment

Find out what to do if your judgment debtor misses an installment payment

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When a court orders a judgment to be paid in installments and the judgment debtor misses one or more payments, the person holding the judgment (the judgment creditor) has the right to collect the missed payments immediately. But here is the problem: The judgment creditor can't collect the rest of the judgment (the part that hasn't come due yet) unless the court first sets aside the installment payment provisions and makes the entire judgment due and payable.

EXAMPLE: Phoebe gets a judgment against Ted for $3,000. The judge grants Ted's request to pay the judgment in installments of $300 per month. Ted misses the first payment, and Phoebe hears he plans to move out of state. She can immediately move to collect the $300. But to collect the rest, Phoebe must either wait until each subsequent payment is missed (and then try to collect each one) or go back to court and ask the judge to set aside the installment payments portion of the judgment so that she can collect it all.

To set aside an installment judgment, call the small claims clerk's office and find out whether the court has a form for this purpose. Below is a sample form you can copy if your court doesn't have its own form. File the original form with the small claims clerk, have a copy served on the debtor, and follow up with a Proof of Service form.

Collecting Judgments Against Government Agencies

If you have a small claims judgment against a government agency, typically you can't use any of the enforcement procedures available for other situations. Instead, you'll need to follow special procedures to collect. Public entities include your state government, counties, cities, school districts, public authorities, and any other political subdivisions in the state.

Procedures differ slightly from state to state. As soon as you are awarded a judgment against a government agency, you can contact the agency to get information about its payment procedures. In many states, you must take the following steps to collect a judgment from a government agency:

1. Prepare a written declaration under penalty of perjury stating the following:
  • the fact that you have a judgment in your favor
  • the name of the government agency that owes the judgment
  • that you desire payment, and
  • the amount of the judgment.

The sample declaration below contains all this information.

2. Get a certified copy of the judgment from the small claims court clerk.

3. Contact the agency that owes you money and find out the fee to collect the judgment.

4. Take or send the declaration, copy of the judgment, and the fee to the office or individual the agency you have the judgment against identifies as the correct place to send the documents.

5. You may be required to deliver a notice to the judgment debtor (the same government agency) where you filed a request for payment, even though doing so is redundant. To play it safe, have a friend mail photocopies of the declaration, the judgment, and a completed proof of service form to the government agency.

As with any judgment, it may be better to wait until the time to appeal has passed before asking for payment.

6. Keep the original proof of service and your copies of the declaration and judgment in a safe place.

The government agency will notify its treasurer or controller, who will pay you or deposit the money with the court. Make sure that you have your current address on file with the court–otherwise, you may never get paid.

Sample Declaration

I, Steven Nakamura, declare as follows:

1. I have a judgment against the City of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Small Claims Court case #11212).

2. I desire payment according to the terms of the judgment.

3. The exact amount required to satisfy the judgment is $2,312, plus interest at the rate allowable by law from February 16, 20xx, until the judgment is paid in full.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that this delcaration is true and correct.

Dated: February 16, 20xx ______________________

Steven Nakamura

by: Ralph Warner

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