What you need to Know:
- A judgment is a determination by a court that one party owes money to another party
- Winning a judgment is not the same as getting the money
- A judgment is merely a legal ruling; It is up to you to enforce that ruling
- You may utilize several methods, including garnishment or sheriff’s execution
- You may hire a lawyer to enforce your judgment
So you’ve won your case and now you need to get paid. This article will explain how to enforce a judgment in Oklahoma.
What is a Judgment?
A judgment is a court’s final determination of the rights and obligations of the parties in a case. If you filed suit and obtained a judgment for a sum of money against another party, then you have a declaration by the court that the other party owes you that money. The judgment is legally enforceable obligation against the other party.
The holder of the judgment is called the Judgment Creditor and the party under obligation to the judgment is the Judgment Debtor.
How to Enforce a Judgment
Once you have obtained a judgment, your quest to get paid has not ended. In fact, it has only just began. While the court has declared you are entitled to the money by issuing a judgment, it has not issued any specific direction regarding the payment of the judgment. That is up to the Judgment Creditor.
There are several ways to enforce a judgment in Oklahoma, including:
Investigation of Assets through Post-Judgment Discovery
Before a judgment creditor can garnish accounts or seize property, he/she/it must first know where to look. This is where post-judgment discovery comes in.
A Creditor may ask the Court to conduct a Hearing on Assets
Once you have obtained a judgment against the defendant/debtor, you may ask the Court to order the judgment debtor to appear a hearing and disclose his/her/its assets.
Generally, the judgment creditor will file a motion or application for the HOA and specifically request that the judgment debtor bring a specific list of items that would assist the creditor in assessing how to enforce the judgment. This list would include several years of tax returns, titles to vehicles, titles to real property, certificates of stock or articles of organization or other documents that would demonstrate ownership of a company, and of course all bank accounts as well as recent bank statements that would reveal funds going in and out.
The Judgment Creditor may also hire a court reporter and examine the debtor under oath. This should be done along with the inspection of books/records, as it allows the creditor ask questions regarding the books/records. The debtor’s testimony will then be preserved in the record and the transcript can be used to assist in further investigation and search for assets.
Hiring a Lawyer to do all of this for you
You may hire a lawyer to enforce your judgment. You are entitled to post-judgment costs and attorney fees, so whatever fees your lawyer charges you may be added to the balance that is sought agains the debtor. Some lawyers may ask to be paid by the hour, with a retainer deposited up front for a certain amount of hours. A more common arrangement is that the lawyer takes a percentage of whatever is collected, as it is collected. This fee arrangement balances the financial risk evenly among the lawyer and client/creditor.
OKC attorney Travis Charles Smith is available for judgment enforcement and collection in Oklahoma. Please contact us to set up an appointment.