Judgment collection (or Execution of Judgment) refers to the process taken after a prevailing part in a civil suit wins a money judgment.
To begin, a Court issues a judgment on the merits and gives a copy to each party. At this point, the parties typically have an opportunity to file a written notice of appeal with the appropriate court and within the applicable timeframe. Once the time for appeal passes or the appellate process has completed, the judgment becomes final.
For cases involving money judgments, the parties may satisfy the judgment without using the court process and instead by negotiating and agreeing to a plan for a payment. This is generally encouraged by the Court.
If the winning party does not receive payments in a timely fashion or if no payment arrangement is made, the prevailing party may ask the Court to issue an execution. An execution is an order to the Sheriff or levying officer to assist the collection process. The judgment may be executed against a savings or checking account, personal property (not a necessity of life), wages, vehicles, or any other assets of the judgment debtor.
The collection process involves additional steps, timelines and various fees. For example, it requires filling a praecipe, specifically identifying what to execute against.
Collection of the entire judgment may take more than one execution, and only one execution may be filed at a time. Certain property and percentages of assets may be exempt from collection, such as a percentage necessary to support the debtor and his/her family and for the necessitites of life.
If at least one attempt to execute against the debtor for the judgment has been made, the creditor may request the Court set a Show Cause Hearing and examination of the judgment debtor. The debtor will be subpoenaed into Court and ordered to show cause why no effort has been made to satisfy the judgment.
A Certificate of Transcript of Docket filed with the Clerk of the District Court, may be another option and will place a lien on any real property (land or home) that the debtor may have. The property will not be sold without satisfaction of the judgment prior to sale.
A judgment is good for ten (10) years and may be executed within that timeframe (see MCA 27-2-201(2)). The judgment will also be recorded against the debtor’s credit record with the Credit Bureau. After 10 years, the judgment may be extended for good cause. The creditor is responsible for notifying the Court as soon as the judgment is satisfied.
Montana's rules of civil procedure govern judgment collection processes, including situations of judgments from other states (Foreign Judgments) and from foreign countries (Foreign-Country Money Judgment).