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Basics on Money Judgments

Definitions

  • "Creditor" is the party that won the case and was awarded a judgment by the court.
  • "Debtor" is the party who lost the case and was ordered by the court to pay the other party.
  • "Entry" or "Entered" is the term used with a judgment when it is filed by the Court Administrator. This usually triggers the timeframe during which a judgment can be appealed.
  • "Docketed" is the term used with a judgment when the winning party in a case files an Affidavit of Identification form with the court. This starts the process the judgment creditor use to try to collect payment of the judgment.

How long does a judgment last

A judgment can be enforced for ten (10) years from the date it was entered. It can also be "renewed" if not satisfied (paid) within the 10 years. To enforce a judgment that was not paid during the 10 year timeframe, you have to start a new lawsuit before the end of the 10 year period, based on a claim for failure to pay a judgment . See MN Statute § 541.04. A lawsuit is started by serving a Summons and Complaint on the judgment debtor. You should talk to a lawyer to get advice on how to prepare the papers and handle the case. Court staff cannot give legal advice.

Paying the judgment

The parties can make an agreement about paying the judgment, including making payments to the creditor over a period of time. NOTE: The judgment creditor can agree to accept a lesser amount to satisfy the judgment.

Once the judgment is paid in full, or is paid to the creditor's satisfaction, the next step is to notify the court that the judgment has been paid. To do this, the creditor completes a Satisfaction of Judgment form and signs it in front of a notary or court clerk. One of the parties then files that form with the court. If the creditor does not cooperate with completing the Satisfaction of Judgment form, then the debtor can file a Motion to Satisfy Judgment form with the court, which will also update the court records to show that the judgment has been paid.

How to collect payment of a judgment

Even if you win a judgment in court, it is not always easy to get paid. Sometimes a debtor's income or assets are "exempt" from collection under MN Stat. § 550.37.

If the debtor does not pay and the time to appeal has expired, the creditor may decide to take steps to legally "enforce" the judgment. The Court is not a collection agency and does not locate assets of the debtor. The creditor is responsible for getting that information. See the STEPS listed below on how to get the debtor's financial information.

The creditor usually has several options on how to try to enforce the judgment and collect payment, including garnishment of a debtor's wages or bank accounts, and another option might be to file a lien against real estate owned by the debtor. Talk to a Lawyer to get legal advice on other options.

Enforcing a judgment may involve additional fees. These fees may be added to the original judgment by filing an Affidavit of Increased Costs form with the court and can be collected if the debtor's assets can be found. 

STEP 1:
You must have the judgment "docketed" by filing an Affidavit of Identification of Debtor form with Court Administration. 

STEP 2:
After having the judgment docketed, the creditor can choose how to try to collect payment, such as asking the court administrator for a "Writ of Execution" to garnish the debtor's wages or bank accounts. The creditor must take the "Writ of Execution" to the Sheriff's office in the county where the debtor works or has assets along with a list of the debtor's property, bank accounts, and other funds and/or the name of the debtor's employer. 

If the creditor does not have information about the debtor's assets, the creditor may file a Request for Order for Disclosure with Court Administration asking that a judge issue an "Order for Disclosure" that requires the debtor to respond to the creditor by completing a Financial Disclosure form listing all "non-exempt" property and financial information within ten (10) days. Some assets are "exempt" from collection, which means they cannot be taken by the sheriff to pay a judgment.

STEP 3:
If the debtor fails to respond to the Order for Disclosure within the time allowed, the creditor may file an Affidavit in Support of Order to Show Cause. If the judge determines that a hearing is required, the judge issues an "Order to Show Cause," which requires the debtor to go to a hearing and explain to the judge why he or she disobeyed the Order for Disclosure. If debtor fails to appear at the hearing, the judge may issue a warrant for the debtor's arrest.

 

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