COLLECTING CIVIL JUDGMENTS
A way to avoid being a victim of collections law starts with a good written contract. Make sure your contract has provisions for time deadlines of when payment must be submitted.
Make sure the contract has a provision for Attorney fees, interest, court costs, and collection costs for payments not received. Without a provision in a contract for Attorney Fees, interest, and court costs, a judge will be reluctant to award you anything but your basic damage amount.
Hire an attorney to send a Final Demand Letter before commencing suit, and let the debtor know of when you expect, or want the money paid by. If the debtor does not respond to the Final Demand Letter by that time period, then get ready to file a complaint in court.
What court you choose to proceed in depends on the amount of damages. Any claim up to $7,000.00 is handled in Small Claims Court. Any claim over $7,000.00 is handled in District Court.
It is important to do an asset check before filing a complaint in court to determine if there is any real estate or other assets to attach.
If you file a complaint in District Court and the debtor does not appear, which happens often, then ask the court to enter a Default Judgment. After you get a Default Judgment, then request for an Execution. An Execution expires after twenty (20) years. In the Small Claims court if the debtor does not appear at the scheduled court dates, then a Capias will be awarded.
A Capias is a civil arrest warrant. A Capias expires after one (1) year. The Capias is served on the debtor by a Sheriff in the county in which the debtor resides or works.
If the debtor owns real estate, then file a Motion to Attach the Real Estate. Once granted by the court, the Writ of Attachment is recorded in the Registry of Deeds where the real estate is located. If there is no real estate to attach, but Bank Account(s) that you have knowledge of, then request a Motion for Approval of Attachment by Trustee Process to attach the bank accounts.
If you have absolutely no idea of assets owned by the debtor, then file an Application for Supplementary Process. An Application for Supplementary Process requires the debtor to appear in court and answer the various questions asked by the judge, to determine assets owned by the debtor.
The name of the game is to protect yourself through a well written and detailed contract, in order to try to avoid going to court to recover money owed to you.