(Enforcing a Money Judgment)
Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney. Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
Sometimes, the hardest part is getting your money. Most of the time, the losing party, the Debtor, will pay what they now owe. If the Debtor does not pay, the winning party, the Creditor, will have to take steps to collect the Judgment. This handout provides an overview of enforcing a judgment. These steps might include:
Filing a lien against real property,
Garnishing a bank account or wages, or
Seizing personal property or assets
You may want to contact a lawyer for help with collecting your debt. Some lawyers specialize in bankruptcy and debt collection. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
When you win a Judgment in court, the Clerk of Court sends a Notice of Judgment to the parties. The losing party has thirty (30) days to pay the Judgment. The winning party, the Creditor, should first contact the losing party, the Debtor, to attempt to collect the judgment. In the vast majority of cases, the person you sued will simply pay you after you win.
You can ask the Clerk for an Abstract of Judgment. The abstract can then be filed in the county with the deed records. This makes your Judgment public record and gives it legal effect. This will also give you a lien on any nonexempt real estate that the debtor owns in the county where you file it. In Wyoming, a person’s homestead is considered exempt up to 10,000, or 20,000 if the property if owned jointly, or 6000 for a mobile home. However, if the debtor owns other property, like a rental property, your abstract of judgment gives you a lien on that property, and you might be able to force a sale of the property to pay your judgment.
If the person does not own any nonexempt real estate, however, an abstract of judgment will not help you to collect the debt.
To seize money from a bank account, you will need to ask the court for a Writ of Garnishment . Garnishments force another party, like a bank, to turn over the Debtor’s money to you. These other parties are called Garnishees. Garnishees are required to turn over all property currently in, or which comes into, their possession during the thirty days after the service of the Garnishment.
You can ask the Court Clerk to issue the Writ of Garnishment and have the Garnishment served. Once served, the Garnishee is required to return a timely response and all non-exempt funds to the court. Once the court receives the funds, if the Debtor has not filed an objection, the funds will be released to the Creditor.
If the Debtor or Garnishee files an objection, for example, because they believe some of the money is exempt, a hearing may be scheduled to make a decision about the objection.
In Wyoming, you may attempt to garnish wages to collect on a judgment. The amount that can be withheld is subject to strict requirements and exemptions found the Wyoming statutes. It can be as much as 25% of the person’s take-home wages.
To garnish wages or income, you will need to ask the court for a Writ of Continuing Garnishment. Writs of continuing garnishments are orders to an employer (Garnishee) to withhold earnings of the Debtor for repeating pay periods until the Judgment amount has been paid. Continuing Garnishments are valid for 90 days and may require the Garnishee (employer) to provide to the court multiple responses and/or payments.
The continuing garnishment is similar to a general Garnishment (below), except that it must also include an explanation of the garnishment formula and notice to the Debtor of their right to object to the calculation. A Continuing Garnishment is served upon the Garnishee (including a copy for the Debtor) by personal service, or by Certified Mail from the Clerk. The Garnishee is then required to return an answer and the withheld funds to the court. If the Debtor disputes the computation of the non-exempt wages, he or she can file an objection in writing, and a hearing may be scheduled to make a decision regarding the objection.
Once the court receives the funds, if the Debtor has not filed an objection, the funds will be released to the Creditor.
Seizing a debtor’s personal property can be tricky. You may want to speak to a lawyer for assistance. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
If you chose to go forward on your own, you must:
File paperwork with the court to request a Writ of Execution of the judgment;
Arrange to sell the property through an execution sale (proper procedures must be followed);
Take responsibility for the costs of the sheriff and sale, if the proceeds from the sale of the property are not enough; and
If the debtor claims exemptions, you must attend a hearing.
If the sheriff successfully obtains the property, notice of the execution sale must be published in a newspaper. This notice must include a description of the property to be sold, along with the date, time, and location of the sale. The sale cannot take place for at least 10 days after the notice is published.
The property will be sold at a public auction to the highest bidder, unless a private sale is ordered by the court. There are certain rules that must be followed for the public auction. For example, the executing sheriff cannot be a buyer, and there must be at least two bids before the property can be sold. Any proceeds from the sale will be applied the Judgment after deducting all costs and fees of the sale.
The Debtor may also have exemptions. Wyoming law says that certain property, or a certain value of the property, is exempt from seizure. In order to claim any exemptions, the Debtor must file a request for exemption within ten days of the seizure of property. The court will then set a hearing within five days to determine the status of the claimed exempt property. If this happens, the property value must be determined by three disinterested appraisers selected by the sheriff. Many sheriffs are familiar with this process and obtain the appraisals in an efficient and timely manner.
If a Debtor files for bankruptcy during the collection proceedings, then all further collection efforts must cease until the Debtor is released from Bankruptcy Court. The Creditor should contact the trustee in bankruptcy to determine if the debt will be paid or discharged by the Bankruptcy Court. Click here for more information on the bankruptcy process.