Texas law provides different methods to collect on a court judgment regardless of whether the judgment originates from the state of Texas or another state. When a person or entity recovers money damages in a court, it will primarily be in the form of a judgment. A judgment is merely a piece of paper that declares a person or an entity owes another person or entity money. In order to collect on that piece of paper, consider the following methods and rules:
1. Abstract of Judgment, Domestication and Time Concerns
First, determine whether you have a judgment from a Texas court or another state's court.
If you have a Texas judgment, you can begin the collections process immediately by filing an abstract of judgment in the Real Property Records of the county where the judgment debtor may own non-exempt real property. Once the abstract of judgment is filed and properly recorded then a judgment lien is created which will automatically attach to any non-exempt real property owned or thereafter acquired by the debtor and located in that county. The practical effect of this to warn all potential buyers of a piece of real property that there is an outstanding balance due to the judgment creditor which needs to be paid out of the proceeds of any sale of the property.
If you have a foreign judgment, as in a judgment from another state, then before abstracting the judgment domestication must occur. To domesticate a judgment, file an affidavit filing a foreign judgment, attaching a certified copy of the judgment from the foreign court to said affidavit and a notice of filing a foreign judgment with the county clerk. Be sure to send this a copy of the notice to the debtor. This provides the debtor and public notice of the foreign judgment. Once domesticated in Texas, the judgment creditor can begin employing any and all methods of collection available for a Texas judgment, including but not limited to, abstracting the judgment in particular counties.
Please be aware that a judgment becomes uncollectable ten years following rendition. However, abstracting the judgment within the first ten years after the judgment is rendered will keep it alive for another ten years after abstracting. It starts the ten-year clock over. So if a judgment is rendered on November 10, 2002, then the judgment creditor should abstract the judgment by November 9, 2012. Assuming the abstract is renewed via refiling on November 9, 2012, then the judgment can still be collected until November 9, 2022. This process continues, theoretically, forever. Remember to renew the judgment by refiling the abstract within ten years after the initial filing of the abstract to avoid losing the power to collect on the judgment.
2. Writ of Execution
Secondly, after abstracting the judgment, the judgment creditor can find non-exempt personal or real property in a specific county in Texas and request a writ of execution from the county clerk. The clerk of the county will then send a writ to the judgment creditor. This writ can be sent to a constable or sheriff in the county who will then physically go to the location of the property who will then levy and sell the property on the first Tuesday of the month along with the other foreclosure sales.
3. Writ of Garnishment
Thirdly, along with abstracting the judgment in a county and executing a writ on property, a judgment creditor can collect on the judgment by freezing and taking assets found in a debtor's bank account by executing a writ of garnishment. This allows a creditor to demand a bank turnover any assets found in its customers' account to partially or totally satisfy the judgment.
4. Turnover Order
Fourthly, the most extraordinary of collection methods is to ask a court to appoint a receiver. This receiver will use its court appointed power to find and turnover assets to the creditor where such assets are unattainable through normal collection means. This is the most powerful option, yet the rarest due to its power.
These four methods provide effective ways for judgment creditors to collect on their money judgments. As with many areas of the law, an attorney can be an excellent and sometimes necessary asset in navigating these processes. If you need help collecting a judgment, please call The Cromeens Law Firm, PLLC, and our attorneys will be happy to help.
This article is intended as a general educational overview of the subject matter and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of recent jurisprudence, nor a substitute for legal advice for a specific legal matter. If you have a legal issue, please consult an attorney.