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Collect a Small Claims Judgment


A judgment is a decision of the court that has been reviewed, approved, and entered by a judge. Collections may start once a judgment is entered.

The Judgment Creditor is the person or business that won the lawsuit and is owed money. The Judgment Debtor is the person or business that lost the lawsuit and owes the money. The Garnishee is either the employer or bank processing the garnishment.

If you won a judgment and know the debtor’s place of employment, you may be able to garnish the debtor's earnings.

Wage Garnishment Forms  Wage Garnishment Forms

If you won a judgment and know the debtor’s bank information, a bank account garnishment may be an option.

Bank Account Garnishment Forms  Bank Account Garnishment Forms (also known as OTW)

If you won a judgment but do not have the information to start a garnishment, you may request a judgment debtor examination (also known as JD exam oral hearing).

JD Exam Forms  Judgment Debtor Examination Forms

Non-monetary options that may lead to collecting a judgment include a lien on property (if the debtor owns a home) or driver’s license suspension (if the judgment was the result of a car accident).

Instructions to the Clerk  Instructions to the Clerk

FAQ

How do I start a wage garnishment?

The Municipal Court can garnish non-exempt wages from any employer in Ohio. You may start a wage garnishment if you know where the Judgment Debtor is employed.

Garnishments filed first take effect first and remain in effect for at least six (6) months ahead of all others. If other creditors already have Garnishments against the Judgment Debtor, you may have to wait for your garnishment to begin. Garnishments remain in effect until the entire judgment is paid, or for at least six (6) months. You may file again if you do not receive your entire judgment amount.

If the garnishment is successful, the Clerk will send your money after the employer has submitted the first check to the Clerk’s office. If the Judgment Debtor requests a hearing, all parties will be notified of the location, date, and time of the hearing. You may call the file room at (614) 645-7220 to check the status of your garnishment (be sure to provide your case number).

Complete the following steps to start a wage garnishment:

  1. Mail the Judgment Debtor a "Notice of Court Proceeding to Collect Debt" (also known as the "15 Day Demand"). Complete two copies of the form and mail one copy of the completed form to the Judgment Debtor at his or her last known address by ordinary U.S. mail. When you mail the 15 Day Demand, obtain a "Certificate of Mailing" from the Post Office (Form 3817). This receipt shows when you sent the form. There is a cost to obtain a Certificate of Mailing and your mailing costs are not recoverable. After mailing the 15 Day Demand form, you should wait at least fifteen (15) days but not more than forty-five (45) days before moving on to Step 2.

  2. Complete the Wage Garnishment Packet:
    • (One copy) 15 Day Demand form
    • Certificate of Mailing receipt from the Post Office
    • (One copy) Instructions to the Bailiff for Service of Garnishment by Bailiff or Certified Mail (please use bailiff service if the Garnishee is in Franklin County)
    • (One original plus four copies) Affidavit & Order & Notice of Garnishment of Personal Earnings & Answer of Employer. You must sign the "Garnishment Affidavit" in front of a notary public or a Deputy Clerk in the Clerk of Court's office
    • (Two copies) Notice to the Judgment Debtor and Request for Hearing
    • (One copy) Interim Report and Answer of Garnishee
    • (One copy) Employer Guide to Processing Continuous Orders of Garnishment

  3. File your complete Garnishment Packet with the filing fee of $85.00 per employer with the Clerk's office. The Clerk accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard or check made payable to "Franklin County Municipal Court."
How do I start a bank account garnishment?

If you know that the Judgment Debtor has a checking or savings account, you may ask the Court to use the money in the account to pay your judgment. The Franklin County Municipal Court can attach accounts from any bank in Ohio. If the bank is not located within the City of Columbus or Franklin County, be sure to ask the Clerk of Court to mail the Bank Account Attachment to the bank by certified mail. If the attachment is successful, the Clerk will send your money in about thirty (30) days. This time frame may be extended if the Judgment Debtor requests a court hearing to review the attachment. If the Judgment Debtor requests a hearing, all parties will be notified of the location, date, and time of the hearing. You may call the Clerk's Civil Division at (614) 645-7220 to check the status of your attachment. You will need to provide your case number for the Clerk to check the status. You may file again if you do not receive the entire judgment amount.

To collect your judgment through a bank account attachment, complete the following three steps:

  1. Find out the name of the Judgment Debtor's bank, the bank's address, and the Judgment Debtor's account number. If the Judgment Debtor has ever given you a check, try to remember the name of his or her bank. If you have ever given a check to the Judgment Debtor, request a copy of the check from your bank and inspect the back of the check to see if the Judgment Debtor’s bank account information is printed. You may be able to get the name of the Judgment Debtor’s bank through the "Oral Judgment Debtor Examination," or the "Written Judgment Debtor Questionnaire."

  2. Obtain and complete the OTW Garnishment Packet. The OTW Garnishment Packet includes:
    • (One copy) Instructions for Service of Garnishment by Bailiff or Certified Mail (please use bailiff service if garnishee is in Franklin County).
    • (One original plus four copies) Affidavit & Order & Notice of Garnishment of Property Other Than Personal Earnings & Answer of Garnishee. You must sign the “Garnishment Affidavit" in front of a notary public or a Deputy Clerk in the Clerk of Court’s office.
    • (Two copies) Notice to Judgment Debtor and Request for Hearing

  3. File the "OTW" Garnishment Packet with the Clerk of Court. You will need to pay the following filing fees:
    • A Check or money order for $1.00 payable to the Judgment Debtor’s bank (the Garnishee)
    • A Filing fee of $40.00 for each bank. The Clerk accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard, or check made payable to "Franklin County Municipal Court."
How do I put a lien on a home?

If the Judgment Debtor owns a home or other land, you may file a judgment lien on the real estate. A judgment lien on real estate gives you an interest in the debtor’s home or other land. You may be able to collect the cash value of your judgment if the real estate enters foreclosure, is refinanced, or is sold. A judgment lien on real estate remains in effect for five (5) years.

To place a Judgment Lien on a Judgment Debtor's real estate, complete the following three steps:

  1. Complete the "Instructions to the Clerk" and mark "Certificate of Judgment." File the form with the Clerk on the 3rd floor of the Municipal Court. There is a $10.00 fee to prepare the Certificate of Judgment. The Clerk accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard, or check made payable to "Franklin County Municipal Court." The Clerk will prepare and mail you the “Certificate of Judgment.”

  2. File the Certificate of Judgment at the Court of Common Pleas and with the County Recorder in the county where the Judgment Debtor owns land. In Franklin County, the Certificate of Judgment must be e-filed with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas provides e-filing computer terminals at the Court and the Clerk's staff is available to assist you file your Certificate of Judgment. There is a filing fee for judgment liens in Franklin County. The fee may vary in other counties. The phone number for the Franklin County Common Pleas Clerk is (614) 525-3621. Judgment liens must also be filed with the County Recorder of the county where the property is located. The Franklin County Recorder is located at 373 S. High St., 18th floor, Columbus, OH 43215. You will need a copy of the Certificate of Judgment. There is a basic recording fee for the Franklin County Recorder's office. The phone number for the Franklin County Recorder is (614) 525-3930.

  3. Notify the Judgment Debtor of the Judgment Lien. A filed Certificate of Judgment is legal notice to all parties that a lien on the property exists. After you have filed the judgment lien with the Common Pleas Court and the County Recorder, you should personally write to the Judgment Debtor and let the debtor know that a lien has been filed and will not be removed until the entire judgment amount is paid.

If the judgment is not paid after you file the lien, you have the following options:

  • Wait until the Judgment Debtor sells or refinances the property; your lien may be paid if there is enough money from the sale or refinance to satisfy your lien. Often, a debtor will try to pay a judgment to get a loan or to refinance a home.
  • Wait until the Judgment Debtor’s property is sold as the result of a foreclosure action; the money from the sheriff’s sale may satisfy your lien.
  • Start a foreclosure action in the common pleas court.
How do I suspend a driver's license?

If you received your judgment because the Judgment Debtor operated a motor vehicle negligently and it has been at least thirty (30) days since you received your judgment, you may get the Debtor’s Ohio driver’s license suspended. The Debtor’s Ohio driver’s license will remain suspended until the Debtor either pays the judgment in full or agrees with you to pay the judgment. Additional information is available  at www.bmv.ohio.gov. To get the Judgment Debtor’s Ohio driver’s license suspended, complete the following two steps:

  1. Complete the "Instructions to the Clerk” and mark "Certificate of Judgment to BMV" (Bureau of Motor Vehicles). You must list the date of the accident and provide at least two of the following items of information (a police report may have the information):
    • The Debtor's driver's license number
    • The Debtor's social security number
    • The Debtor's date of birth
  2. File the "Instructions to the Clerk" with the Clerk at the Municipal Court. There is a filing fee of $10.00. The Clerk accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard, or check made payable to "Franklin County Municipal Court."
The Clerk will issue a "Certificate of Judgment to BMV" and forward it to the BMV. The Judgment Debtor's license will be suspended when the BMV receives the Certificate of Judgment.
What if I don't know the Debtor's employer or bank?

After a judgment is filed you may request an order requiring the Judgment Debtor to appear in court to answer your questions, under oath, about his or her income, property, earnings, and ability to pay the judgment. The procedures for an Oral Examination require you to come to court for the Oral Judgment Debtor Examination hearing. To request an order for Oral Examination, complete the following steps:

  1. Complete the "Motion and Order For Examination of Judgment Debtor." You will need to fill out one form and then make two copies of the completed form (1 original and 2 copies). You must identify the specific person that you want the Court to order to appear.

  2. Complete the "Instructions for Service of Summons" form and mark Personal Service or Certified Mail. List the name and address of the person you want to appear at court.

  3. Pay the court cost: $11.00 for certified mail service for each judgment debtor, or $30.00 for personal service for each judgment debtor in Franklin County, and $46.00 for personal service by Sheriff of Delaware, Licking, Union, Madison, Pickaway, or Fairfield County for each judgment debtor.

You are free to ask the Debtor any questions you wish as long as they are relevant to his or her assets and/or earnings. If the debtor is served but does not appear in court the magistrate may reschedule the hearing or authorize a warrant for the debtor's arrest.

What if the judgment is dormant?

A judgment becomes dormant if no action is taken to enforce it for a period of fivve (5) years. The Judgment Creditor (the person who has the judgment) may file a motion to revive the judgment any time within the next ten (10) years. Once a judgment is revived, it is enforceable and the Judgment Creditor can take steps to collect the judgment.

To revive a dormant judgment the Judgment Creditor can take the following steps:

  1. Complete the "Motion to Revive Dormant Judgment" and "Entry for Revivor of Judgment" (1 original and a copy for each defendant).
  2. Complete the Instructions for Service of Summons and mark the type of service you are requesting and include the debtor’s address.
  3. Complete the Instructions to the Clerk form and mark "Revivor" and pay the $30 court cost.

The Clerk will prepare a summons to send with a copy of the Motion to Revive Dormant Judgment. The Judgment Debtor(s) has twenty-eight (28) days from the date when the motion is served to respond. To determine the date the Judgment Debtor was served, you can check the Clerk of Court’s website using your case number.

If the Judgment Debtor(s) does not respond by the 31st day after service, you may file the "Entry for Revivor of Judgment" with the Clerk on the 3rd floor or send the Entry by mail. To obtain a copy of the final Entry, enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope with the Entry.