Collecting a court judgment

General information

If you win a court judgment ordering the other party to pay you money, the court does not collect money for you. A money judgment in your favor does not necessarily mean that the money will be paid, but you can take steps to collect that money. 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.

When court judgments are paid, the person who collected the money should sign a Satisfaction of Judgment to indicate that the judgment was paid and file it with the court or give it to the person who owed the money for filing. More information about this process is available from Nolo.

Collecting a court judgment

Garnishment
self-help form kits

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.

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, Washington LawHelp has some information 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: