Judgments

Basics on Money Judgments 

 
Definitions
 
  • "Judgment” is a word that means “the judge’s decision” or “the judge’s order.”
  • "Creditor" is the party who won the case and is owed money (because a judgment was awarded by the court).
  • "Debtor" is the party who lost the case and owes money to the creditor.
  • "Entry" or "Entered" is the word used when a judgment is filed in the case by the Court Administrator. This usually starts the timeframe during which a judgment can be appealed.
  • "Docketed" or “Docketing” is the word used when the creditor files an Affidavit of Identification form with the court. Docketing the judgment is the first step a creditor takes when they want to try to collect payment of the judgment.
  • “Levy” or “Execution Levy” is the action taken by the sheriff to collect money owed to the creditor.
Example: The creditor won the case against the debtor and a judgment was entered in the case. Then the creditor docketed the judgment and set up an execution levy by the sheriff.

How long does a judgment last?

A creditor has ten (10) years from the date the judgment was entered to collect the money owed to them by the debtor. A judgment can be "renewed" by the creditor if it is not satisfied (paid) within the 10 years. To enforce a judgment that was not paid during the 10-year timeframe, the creditor has to renew the judgment by starting a new lawsuit before the end of the 10 year period, based on a claim for failure to pay a judgment.  See Minn. Stat. § 541.04. A new lawsuit is started by serving a Summons and Complaint on the judgment debtor. You should get legal advice from an attorney about how to prepare your papers. Court staff cannot give legal advice

How do I show the court that a judgment has been paid?

The parties can make an agreement about paying the judgment, including making payments to the creditor over a period of time. NOTE: The judgment creditor can choose to accept a lesser amount to satisfy the judgment, but does not have to.

Once the judgment is paid in full, or is paid to the creditor's satisfaction, the next step is to let the court know that the judgment has been paid. To do this, the creditor completes a Satisfaction of Judgment form and files it with the court.

If the creditor does not complete the Satisfaction of Judgment form, the debtor can instead file a Motion and Affidavit Requesting Satisfaction of Judgment form with the court. This request will ask the court to update the court records to show that the judgment has been paid. Proof of payment must be attached to the motion and filed with the court.

How do I collect money after winning a judgment?
 
Even if you win a judgment in court, it is not always easy to collect the money. Sometimes a debtor's income or assets are "exempt" (protected) from collection under Minn. Stat. § 550.37. The court is not a collection agency and cannot locate assets of the debtor.
 
When our judgment is final, the appeal time is over, and if the judgment debtor has not paid, you can start trying to collect. If you are not sure whether there is an appeal period or if the appeal period is over, you may need to get legal advice from an attorney.

There are different statutes in Minnesota related to collecting judgments. The information below will explain one common way of collecting a money judgment, which is collecting money from the judgment debtor’s wages or bank account using the execution levy process.

NOTE: The words “garnishment” and “levy” are often used in place of one another, but they are actually two different collection processes with different laws. For more information about the garnishment process, see Minn. Stat. chap. 571 (scroll down to §571.71-§571.932).

There may be other options available to try and collect a judgment in addition to collecting money from wages or a bank accounts. To learn more about these other options, speak with an attorney to get legal advice.

STEP 1: Docket the Judgment

After you win a judgment, you then must have the judgment "docketed.” This process is sometimes called “transcribing the judgment.”  You can docket a judgment by filing an Affidavit of Identification of Judgment Debtor form with court administration in the county where you won your judgment. 

The court also publishes a form called an Affidavit of Identification of Judgment Creditor. This form is only needed if you are docketing a judgment in Minnesota that was awarded in another state.

NOTE: The processes for docketing a judgment for child support or spousal maintenance are generally different than the process explained in this step. Please visit the court’s Child Support Help Topic for more information on how to enter and docket a child support judgment. Please visit the court’s Entry and Docketing Spousal Maintenance Judgments forms packet for the forms you will need to file in order to enter and docket a spousal maintenance judgment. Once your child support or spousal maintenance judgment is entered and docketed, you can try to collect your judgment by following the steps below.
 
STEP 2: Request an Order for Disclosure from court administration
 
If you already have information about where the debtor works and/or has a bank account, skip to Step 3. If you still need this information, you can file a Request for Order for Disclosure form with the court.

NOTE: If your case started in conciliation court, you can file a Request for Order for Disclosure right after the judgment is docketed.  If your case started in district court, the judgment must be docketed for more than 30 days before you can file a Request for Order for Disclosure.

After you file a Request for Order for Disclosure, court administration will send the debtor an Order for Disclosure and a Financial Disclosure form. You will also get a copy of the Order for Disclosure for your records. The Order for Disclosure directs the debtor to fill out the Financial Disclosure form and mail the completed form back to you.  The debtor has 16 days from the date the Order for Disclosure was sent to the debtor to return the completed Financial Disclosure form to you.
 
What if the debtor does not return the Financial Disclosure form to you?
If the debtor has not returned the Financial Disclosure form to you within 16 days of the date it was mailed by court administration, you could file an Affidavit in Support of Order to Show Cause. If the judge determines that a hearing is required, the judge will issue an Order to Show Cause requiring the debtor to go to a hearing and explain why they did not return the Financial Disclosure form to you. You will also likely need to attend the hearing. If the debtor does not appear at the hearing, the judge may issue a bench warrant for the debtor's arrest.
 
What if the debtor returns the Financial Disclosure form but you do not agree with the debtor’s answers?
If you want to dispute the information listed by the debtor on the Financial Disclosure form, you may be able to file a motion with the court and have a hearing in front of a judge on this issue. However, the MN Judicial Branch does not publish forms for this kind of motion, so you may need to get legal advice from an attorney to help you do this.
 
STEP 3: Send the debtor a Notice of Intent to Levy on Earnings

If you want to try to collect a judgment from the debtor’s earnings (also called “wages”) continue with this step. If you would rather try to collect from the debtor’s bank account, skip to Step 4.  

If you are going to try to collect a judgment from the debtor’s earnings, you must first provide a written notice to the debtor. This notice is called a Notice of Intent to Levy on Earnings, and it must be hand-delivered to the debtor at least 10 days OR mailed to the debtor at least 13 days before a Writ of Execution can be served by the sheriff (see Step 4). To see an example of the notice, visit Minn Stat. § 550.136, subd. 6. You can also ask the county sheriff’s office whether they have created forms you can use to levy on earnings.

NOTE: You do not need to wait for the 10 (or 13) days to pass before starting Step 4, but you should consider waiting for this period to pass before moving on to Step 5.
 
STEP 4: Request a Writ of Execution from court administration

After the judgment has been docketed and you have information about where the debtor works and/or has a bank account, you can pay a fee and ask court administration for a Writ of Execution.  This document will direct the sheriff to start an execution levy on the debtor's wages or bank account. 

Generally you can request a writ of execution in person at the courthouse or by writing a letter to court administration. When you request a writ of execution, you will need to give court administration information such as: the court file number, name and address of the debtor(s), the name and address of the debtor’s employer or bank, and the name of the county the county where the debtor’s employer or bank is located.

Contact court administration in the county where you will be requesting a writ of execution to see if they will need any additional information.  Writs of execution expire after 180 days. Generally, court administration can only issue one writ of execution in a county at a time. 

STEP 5: Take the Writ of Execution to the sheriff’s office

Once you get the writ of execution from court administration, you must take the writ of execution to the sheriff's office it is directed to (in the county where the debtor works if you are trying to collect from their wages, or in the county where the debtor banks if you are trying to collect from their bank account).

NOTE: Remember, if you are going to try to collect from the debtor’s earnings, you must provide a written notice to the debtor first. This notice is called a Notice of Intent to Levy on Earnings (see Step 3).

NOTE: If you are going to try to collect from the debtor’s bank account, there is a different set of paperwork that the sheriff must serve on the debtor’s bank along with the writ of execution. Ask your local sheriff’s office whether they have created forms you can use for a bank levy, or see Minn. Stat. § 550.143 for more information and examples of the paperwork you will need.
 
STEP 6:  (Optional) File an Affidavit of Increased Costs

When following the steps listed above, you will be required to pay certain fees to the court and the sheriff. It is possible to have the cost of these fees added to the amount of your judgment by filling out and filing an Affidavit of Increased Costs. Some counties may require proof of your expenses (for example, the fee you paid to the sheriff), so it is a good idea to keep your receipts. You can file more than one Affidavit of Increased Costs if needed.

NOTE: Judgment interest will be added to the amount of your judgment starting on the date the judgment was entered. This interest is calculated automatically by the court.
 
Judgment Enforcement Forms (statewide)

The MN Judicial Branch publishes some judgment enforcement forms, but not every possible form. Carefully read the Instructions that come with the published forms. You could also get forms at law library, from a legal forms publisher, or from an attorney. You should talk with a lawyer to get advice on which forms to use in your situation.
If you are representing yourself in court, you are responsible for following the same laws and rules as an attorney. See Rights and Duties of Self-Represented Parties
 

Laws & Rules on Money Judgments

The following is a list of some of the laws and rules that deal with money judgments in Minnesota. See also Laws, Rules & Legal Research. You can get more help with your legal research at a Law Library, which is open to the public. Talk with a lawyer to get advice on how the laws and rules may affect your case.
 

 

Resources on Money Judgments