So you have a judgment. Now what? In Illinois, you can start collecting on your judgment right after the Judge enters a judgment order and tells you how much money the person you sued (aka the defendant or judgment debtor) owes you. Although you can start collection right away, it is often prudent to wait thirty days to see if the defendant files any post-judgment motions attacking the judgment (ex: motion to reconsider) or other relief (ex: appeal). After thirty days have passed since entry, the judgment is considered final in Illinois. In addition, starting collection procedures before thirty days can entice a defendant to file an appeal. Although you can still collect during the appeal process (unless the defendant posts a bond) you will also be defending the appeal, but that discussion is for another blog post.
In some cases, the defendant may voluntarily suggest a payment plan or pay the judgment off once the decision is rendered. However, that is rarely the case (in my experience) and therefore the successful party (aka the Plaintiff or Judgment Creditor) will have to undertake enforcement actions to collect the money they are owed. In Illinois, judgments collect 9% per interest and therefore, you will be accruing money on the judgment during the collection period until the judgment is satisfied. A judgment needs to be renewed every seven years in Illinois.
A - Attach. This is a simple step that many Plaintiffs and even their lawyers sometimes forget, attaching the judgment to any real property the debtor owns. If you know that the Defendant owns property or their home, you can prepare a memorandum of judgment either after or simultaneously upon entry of the judgment, which is a form document that specifies the Judgment Debtor, the Judgment Creditor, the amount of the judgment, and the property address and PIN number of the property of the defendant that you want the judgment to attach to. This prevents the defendant from selling the property without first satisfying the judgment as it is a lien that is now attached to the property. If you do not know whether the judgment debtor owns the property, you can have an investigator run an asset search to determine if any property is found, or check the recorder of deeds in the county in which they reside. They may own property outside that county, so sometimes a comprehensive asset search is helpful to identify the properties owned by the judgment debtor (if any) as well as any other assets you may be able to collect your judgment against. If the Defendant does not own any property, you should still record the judgment generally as it will also become a judgment lien that will attach to the Defendant any show up on his credit report.
B - Bank Accounts. If you have any idea where the Defendant banks, this is often one of the most successful collection methods to employ in getting your judgment paid. In Illinois, we refer to this post-judgment proceeding as a "Third-Party Citation to Discover Assets" and it is not limited to just bank accounts, although those are the most common (and to be candid, it worked with the ABC theme of this blog post). A third-party citation to discover assets is a form found on the clerk of court's website and requests information about the judgment and is directed to a third-party who the Plaintiff believes may have money due and owe to the Defendant. Therefore, if the Defendant banks at a particular bank and you send them a third-party citation, they will have to freeze the account up to double the judgment balance and file an answer outlining how much is being withheld. Then the Plaintiff goes to court and requests a turnover of the funds pursuant to the third-party citation. Once the bank gets the turnover order, it will send the funds to the Plaintiff upon receipt of the court order and directions regarding where the payment is to be sent. This can apply to any third-party, such as a customer of the Defendant or a tenant of the Defendant or any business or person who the Plaintiff believes is holding money due to the Defendant. If the third-party does not answer, they may have a judgment entered against them for the judgment balance. This is a more complicated step and ripe for a blog post. Stay tuned.
C - Collection Efforts and the Citation to Discover Assets. After recording your judgment and attaching it either real property or the Defendant generally, and assuming you don't know any bank accounts or third-party that has money due to the defendant, you should undertake a citation to discover assets or other collection procedures. A citation to discover assets is a form that looks nearly identical to the third-party citation discussed above, but it is directed to the defendant and not a third-party. Once the citation is served on the Defendant, they are under a lien and cannot make any transfers. That sounds wonderful, but to be honest, it is not always complied with. I always attach a "rider" to the citation to discover assets that I am serving on the Defendant outlining the documents I want to examine as well as the debtor under oath (request bank statements, employment information, tax returns, etc.). Hopefully, by examining the Defendant under oath and reviewing documents that reflect the financial status of the Defendant, you will be able to collect on your judgment. If the Defendant is uncooperative or you are unable to get the documents you need, there are many different routes you can take, but if you can illicit the employment of the Defendant, you can also file a wage garnishment and send it to the employer. There are many options on how to collect your Illinois judgment, but they are all county-specific and require compliance with the local rules as well as the Illinois statutes that guide them.
I hope this little primer helps you collect the money you are owed. Our Firm is experienced at debt collection and judgment enforcement. If you want to set up a time to discuss how we may be of assistance to you, schedule a time to talk with us.