If you win a court judgment ordering the other party to pay you money, you can take steps to collect that money. The court does not collect money for you. Two of the most 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
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.
- Garnishment self-help kit with forms and instructions from the Law Library
- Garnishment forms (without instructions) from the State Court
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.
If you have been notified that a garnishment has been issued against your bank or your employer, Washington LawHelp has some information pertaining to garnishment including:
- Information about debt collection
- Money that Cannot be Taken From You (Garnished) to Pay Off a Debt
- How to Protect Your Bank Account from Garnishment in Washington State
- How to Claim Personal Property Exemptions
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.
If you have been contacted by a collection agency that is attempting to collect a debt against you:
- Information about debt collection from Washington LawHelp
- Debt Collection FAQs from the Federal Trade Commission
- Advice about dealing with debt collectors from the National Consumer Law Center
- Requirements and rules for collection agencies from Nolo
- Rules collection agencies must follow from the Washington State Attorney General's Office