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COLLECTING ON A JUDGMENT

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By Stephen J. Muhonen, Creditor’s Rights / Collections Attorney, Racine Olson, PLLP

Congratulations!  You won your court case and now have a money judgment entered in your favor.  All of that time, effort, emotional energy, attorney fees and costs incurred, and just the drain of the process has finally funneled to a conclusion where a court has concluded you are entitled to money from the adverse party.  It’s a great day! Or is it?  You or your attorney have approached the liable party for payment, but they won’t pay.  All of that time, effort, money and energy spent for what?  How are you going to get them to pay up?

Judgment Creditors in Idaho have multiple resources to draw upon in attempt to satisfy their judgment when insurance resources are not available.  Those options include:

  • Garnishing the Judgment Debtor’s wages
  • Garnishing the Judgment Debtor’s spouses wages (Pursuant to Idaho’s community property laws, the Judgment Debtor has an undivided community property interest in his/her spouse’s wages.)
  • Garnishing the Judgment Debtor’s bank accounts
  • Executing upon the Judgment Debtor’s personal property (vehicles, guns, jewelry, household goods, cash, etc.)
  • Garnishing the Judgment Debtor’s debtor
  • Executing upon a Judgment Debtor’s interest in a business
  • Executing upon the Judgment Debtor’s real property

These collection options though are subject to certain statutory exemptions and/or limitations.  Of course it is up to the Judgment Debtor to timely file their claim of exemption.  As identified above, wages can be garnished.  However, wages are subject to state and federal limitations that regulate the amount of wages that can be garnished.  When executing upon real property, property owners may be protected up to $100,000.00 by the homestead exemption.  Exemptions are in place in support of the public policy that individuals be allowed to retain property to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of him and his dependents.  See generally Idaho Code 11-604.  Said otherwise, the law protects people from Judgment Creditor’s leaving individuals completely destitute.

There is also property that is completely exempt from judgment collection efforts, again, provided the Judgment Debtor claims the exemption.  That property includes:

  • Public Assistance
  • Social Security, Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Workers Compensation
  • Employee Benefits
  • Life insurance proceeds payable to spouse or dependent
  • Awards/proceeds from bodily injury or wrongful death payable to dependent
  • Awards/proceeds from personal bodily injury
  • Child support payments
  • Retirement Benefits
  • Military Retirement and Survivor’s Benefits
  • Veteran’s Benefits
  • Illness Benefits
  • Alimony/support maintenance
  • Burial plots

So how does one find what property the Judgment Debtor has an ownership interest in, in order to garnish and or execute upon it?  Legal search resources such as Lexis and Westlaw have capabilities within them to search out and locate property.  Other options include internet search sites, prior dealings with the Judgment Debtor (i.e. cancelled checks, place of employment), DMV data banks, private investigators and county assessor’s office, just to name a few.  Idaho law also provides that once the Judgment Creditor receives his Writ back as unsatisfied, he can petition the court to order the Judgment Debtor to appear for a Debtor’s Exam, conducted by the Judgment Creditor or his/its attorney.  During this examination, the Judgment Creditor is allowed to explore what assets the Judgment Debtor has and where they are located.

If you are a Judgment Creditor seeking assistance in collecting upon those whom are indebted to you, give Steve Muhonen at Racine Olson, PLLP, a call at 208-232-6101.  You can also email Steve at steve@racineolson.com

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