Collecting a court judgment

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General information

The information on this page is general in nature and does not address any requirements that may have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you win a court judgment ordering the other party to pay you money, you can take steps to collect that money. Two common methods involve using the garnishment process to take money from a paycheck or a bank account, or hiring a collection agency to seek payment.

If you have a court judgment entered against you, certain laws protect your income and property if the other party pursues garnishment or hires a collection agency.

Collecting a court judgment

Garnishment

This legal process allows you (the Plaintiff) to take money from paychecks before an employer issues them, or take money from a bank (or another entity holding money that belongs to the Defendant). State laws on garnishment after a court judgment are in RCW 6.27.

The law library sells a Garnishment self-help kit to assist with the process. The kit has forms and instructions to garnish either an employer or a bank account. Kits can be purchased at the library or online and mailed out.

The State Court website has some garnishment forms. They do not include instructions for how to use them correctly.

Collection agencies

Collection agencies are often used to collect debts. They have experience in debt collection and should have training to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

These agencies typically take a portion of any money recovered. This article about knowing when to hire a collection agency is written for small businesses, but may also have helpful information for individuals.

Ensuring lawful collection of a court judgment

A valid court judgment must be issued to collect on a debt. In rare circumstances, you can ask the court for relief from that judgment if certain Court Rules weren't followed. Washington LawHelp has forms and instructions for a Motion to Vacate based on Court Rule (CR) 60.

Garnishment

If you have been notified that a garnishment has been issued against your bank or your employer, the Washington LawHelp website has information about debt collection. There also have some specific resources pertaining to garnishment including:

Nolo's legal encyclopedia has information about Washington Wage Garnishment Laws that provides an overview of the limits on garnishment amounts and some information on defending a garnishment.

The State Court website has some forms that can be used to claim exemptions for certain assets and a notice of your rights.

Collection agencies

If you have been contacted by a collection agency that is attempting to collect a debt against you: