How do you collect a small claims judgment?


In Florida, small claims court is for claims under $5,000.  The clerks will give you the forms and help you through the process.  Getting a judgment against someone is usually the easy part. A judgment is simply a piece of paper that says somebody owes you money. The hard part is trying to collect the judgment. The judge who granted your final judgment in small claims court, when you did it without a lawyer, is obligated to help you collect it. The judge will be obligated to send a notice out to the defendant ordering the defendant to come to court with copies of bank records, deeds etc. and the judge will help you go through it and figure which assets you can go after.  The judges don't necessarily volunteer this information to you, so you’ve got to be the one to go the clerks and say “Look, I need the judge's help to collect this in small claims court judgment”. When you find out, for example, the person has a bank account, the judge might help you garnish that bank account. If they find out that you're employed and you meet the criteria, you can garnish their wages. In the State of Florida, you cannot put a lien against somebody's home.  Even if they have a beautiful home, free and clear and paid for, you can't touch it.  So you have to look for other real estate, like investment property or rental property.  Remember that, for a married couple, if you sue just the husband you cannot touch anything that's owned by the husband and wife.  If you sue just the wife, you cannot touch anything owned by the husband and wife.  So, for a married couple, you need to sue them both of them to be able to collect something. But, all in all, it's hard, difficult and sometimes impossible to collect judgments in Florida.

You can also talk to your accountant or CPA about taking a tax deduction for uncollected judgments.  I think the IRS requires that you put a reasonable effort into trying to collect it, but if you're unable to collect it, it can be a tax deduction for you. Check it out with your accountant or CPA.