Every day, civil courts across the country decide on cases that often end up in judgments. Winners are often thrilled with the results. But the thrill of winning is often short-lived. Why? Because winning does not necessarily guarantee financial satisfaction.
A win by the plaintiff usually results in a financial judgment being entered against the defendant. Take the case of a company suing a deadbeat customer who hasn’t paid his bill. Should the company win, a judgment is entered against the plaintiff for the amount of the original bill plus legal fees and other expenses. The plaintiff becomes a creditor while the defendant becomes a debtor.
Let the Enforcement Begin
What many people do not realize is that courts rarely get involved in enforcing judgments. Courts enter judgments and then leave it to creditors to collect on their own. As soon as the gavel falls, a creditor needs to think about getting enforcement efforts underway.
For many creditors, this is the beginning of a new understanding that judgment enforcement is subject to state law. Some states allow enforcement actions to begin immediately. Others require a waiting period of 30 days, to give debtors time to appeal.
Debtors Don’t Always Cooperate
Whether or not debtors have time to appeal does not change the fact that they do not always cooperate. You could win a judgment against another party worth tens of thousands of dollars. Don’t expect to walk out of the courtroom with a check in hand. You may have to wait a long time to see that money – if you see it at all.
Do creditors have options for dealing with uncooperative debtors? Absolutely. But there are always legalities involved. That is why agencies like Salt Lake City-based Judgment Collectors exist. They know how to deal with uncooperative debtors without violating the law.
Enforcement Deadlines Exist
People experienced at fighting judgments have a tendency to play the waiting game because they know a dirty little secret: enforcement deadlines apply to judgments in most states. On average, the deadlines run anywhere from 7 to 10 years.
Let us say a judgment has an enforcement deadline of seven years. Approaching the tenth or eleventh month of that seventh year without collecting would force a creditor to make a decision. Either the judgment will be left to expire, or the creditor goes back to court to renew it for another seven years.
Debtors play the waiting game in hopes of discouraging creditors. To that end, they do certain things:
- Provide false contact information
- Provide false employment information
- Change addresses (sometimes moving out of state)
- Hide or dispose of nonexempt assets.
The most experienced debtors leave no stone unturned in their attempts to throw collectors off the trail. Get wrapped up with an experienced debtor and the thrill of winning can evaporate pretty quickly.
A Frustrating Judicial System
One of the most discouraging things to judgment creditors is just how frustrating the judicial system can be. Again, judgment collection rules vary from one state to the next. Some states seem to give an unfair advantage to debtors by limiting the actions creditors can take. Laws can seem so unfair at times that companies just throw up their hands and give up on collecting.
It can be easier to win a civil lawsuit than actually collect on the resulting judgment. But that is the nature of the beast. Winning offers a temporary thrill, a thrill that quickly wanes once enforcement efforts began in earnest. But another thrill awaits those who successfully collect: the thrill of victory. It tends to hang around a bit longer.