I Have a Judgment and Now I Want to Collect Vol. 4

Your deposition has ended. You have all your documents, including bank statements, pay stubs, deeds to property, titles to vehicles, etc. What do you do with all this information?

It depends on the status of your defendant. What I mean by status is you have to determine whether or not your defendant qualifies as “head of a household”. Now, if your defendant is single, has no children, and has no legal obligation to provide for anyone, the answer to that question is quite simple: no. However, if your defendant is the sole supporter of a family, makes or contributes more than 50% to the household, or is the sole legal supporter or contributes more than 50% to another not in his household (a child, a minor or even an adult who is in college) then your defendant may qualify as “head of a household” and many of your remedies will not be available.

Let’s examine the single, no dependent defendant. If he is employed you can initiate what is called a “wage garnishment”. Your actions here are guided by Chapter 77, Florida Statutes. You will need to check with your local clerk to determine the costs involved in filings. This Chapter outlines the step-by-step process, what documents need to be filed and when certain responses are due. Based upon my experience this statute is strictly construed, meaning there is no leniency on the times for replies, responses or the like. Failure to comply with the Statute can result in the garnishment being dissolved by either the defendant or the Court. This Chapter is also appropriate if you are attempting a “bank garnishment” on an open account the defendant has.

If you are after an automobile, boat, motorcycle or other mode of transportation, Chapter 76, Florida Statutes will guide your actions. Some of the pitfalls to avoid in attempting to obtain a vehicle or otherwise are: 1) validate who actually has title; 2) validate there are no liens or other third-party interests; and 3) validate the defendant actually has possession. As with Chapter 77, Chapter 76 must be followed precisely and any deviation therefrom can cause your action to be dissolved.

Unfortunately, the situation will come up where after you depose your defendant and obtain their information and determine they do not qualify as “head of a household”, they do not make enough money to garnish their wages, they have no bank account and no vehicle or other property you can acquire. You have a few choices at this point. First, you can always try to work out an arrangement where they pay you an amount monthly that you put towards the judgment. You can get this in writing, but if they quite paying your only option would be to continue to attempt collection. Your other choice is simply to be patient and understand your judgment is valid and enforceable for twenty (20) years. This is also true to the defendant who qualifies as “head of a household”. While you may not be able to do anything now, time, albeit for a while, is on your side.

As always, please consult with your attorney to determine the correct process for you.

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