HOW DO I COLLECT MY JUDGMENT?

Introduction to the Small Claims Collections Process

If the court finds in your favor and you are entitled to monetary compensation, it is your responsibility to collect the judgment owed to you.

Terms You Will Need to Know

  • The creditor is the person awarded judgment.
  • The judgment debtor is the individual who must pay the judgment.
  • Debtor's examination is a hearing to determine the debtor's assets.
  • Garnishment is a legal process in which money is collected from the debtor's employer or financial institution.
  • Garnishee is the employer or financial institution who must withhold earnings and financial assets in the case of a garnishment.
  • Writ of execution is a court order to seize the debtor's property that can then be sold to pay the judgment.

Recording Your Judgment

If the monetary judgment is not paid by the judgment debtor you may opt to have the judgment recorded which attaches a lien to their property or any property acquired. The record of judgment will remain on file for five years. If the judgment has not been collected when the record expires, it must be renewed or the unpaid balance of the judgment cannot be collected. It is your responsibility to track and renew the judgment every five years as necessary. The court will not notify you that the judgment is about to expire.

Process for Recording the Judgment

  • Request a Transcript of Judgment from the Justice Court. A filing fee of $25 applies.
  • File the Transcript of Judgment with the Superior Court clerk. Additional filing fee may apply. Contact the Clerk of the Superior Court at 724-3200 for filing fee information.
  • Take the certified copy of the judgment to the County Recorder's Office to be recorded. Additional fee may apply. Contact the County Recorder's Office at 623-3177 for fee information.

The Debtor's Examination

The purpose of a Debtor's Examination is to record the assets and liabilities of the debtor. Financial information such as money, property, corporate shares and interest, loans and support payments are recorded and filed with the court. The information attained at the Debtor's Examination is used to determine which assets can be used to settle the judgment. Some assets are exempted. For example, equity in a home, household goods of certain values, $1,500 interest in an automobile are examples of exempt property since they are essential for the debtor to live. A full list of exemptions can be found in the Arizona Revised Statutes; Section 33-1121 through 33-1133. The statutes are available at the Arizona Law Library and the Pima County Public Library.

A hearing officer may order a debtor's exam at the time s/he issues the decision. If the hearing officer sends the decision by mail, you may return to the justice court to file a request for a Debtor's Examination; however, you may be charged $25.00 to issue the required subpoena.

Collection Methods

There are two primary methods to collect a debt: Writ of Garnishment or Writ of Execution

  1. Writ of Garnishment This is often referred to as garnishing a debtor's wages. A written notice is served to both the debtor and the debtor's employer or financial institution. There is a limit to the amount that can be garnished from the debtor's wages and the first $150 cannot be taken from the debtor's bank account. In general, a garnishment will take 15-25% of the debtor's earnings but there is a minimum amount the debtor must retain. The employer or financial institution can be called before a judge for failure to comply with the Writ of Garnishment.
  2. Writ of Execution A Writ of Execution is a process in which the Constable seizes property belonging to the judgment debtor which is then sold in order to satisfy the judgment.
  3. Motor Vehicle Division - Lien If you are granted a judgment on a case resulting from a motor vehicle accident, you have the option of notifying the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) about the judgment if it is not paid within 60 days. MVD will suspend the defendant's driver license until the judgment is paid in full. If you choose this option, you must provide the court with a police report, a certified copy of the judgment, and a Notice of Non-Satisfaction of Judgment. The Court will notify MVD and provide them with all necessary documentation. A fee of $25.00 will be assessed by the Court.

Notify the Court After You Collect the Judgment

After you have successfully collected the judgment in full, you must file a Satisfaction of Judgment form with the Court. This form (JP 18) is available at the court or online.

Note: If the judgment was recorded in the Recorder's Office, you must also file a copy of the Satisfaction of Judgment in their office as well.