What is the purpose of this guide? (back to top)
If you won a small claims judgment, the information in this guide may help you collect your money. The information in this guide only explains methods to collect cash. Collecting non-cash property involves complex and expensive procedures; you should talk to an attorney before trying to collect non-cash property. It is important to note that the Franklin County Municipal Court Small Claims Division presents the information in this guide as a service to members of the general public.
While the information in this guide is about legal issues, it is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the advice of an attorney.
How can I use the information in this guide? (back to top)
This guide contains basic steps to collect a judgment. Read through this guide to learn more about methods you can use to collect your money. The “Definitions of Legal Terms” includes definitions of the words used in this Guide. For example, the meaning of Judgment Debtor can be found in the “Definitions of Legal Terms.” Refer to the "Definitions of Legal Terms" as needed. The information in the "Definitions" section is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the advice of an attorney.
Do I need to complete any forms? (back to top)
You need to obtain, complete, and file certain forms to collect your judgment. Read through each of the collection methods below to find out the forms you need.
You can download the forms at the Court Forms section of this site (scroll down to Collecting a Small Claims Judgment). The forms are also available at the Municipal Court (375 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215) in the Clerk of Court's office on the 3rd floor and in the Small Claims Division on the 16th floor.
If you wish to receive forms by mail, please send a request for the specific forms you need, along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to:
Franklin County Municipal Court
How do I file the collection methods described in this guide? (back to top)
You may file the collection methods described in this guide in person according to the steps, or file by mail by returning the appropriate payment and completed paperwork (signed and notarized, if required) to the Clerk of Court on the 3rd floor. Please note that the “Oral Judgment Debtor Examination” may not be filed by mail.
What is a "judgment"? (back to top)
A judgment is a decision of the court that has been reviewed, approved, and entered by a judge. You and all other parties in the case will be mailed copies of the written decision and the judgment. If the judgment includes "costs" or "court costs" then the judgment creditor should add new costs to the judgment each time they are charged.
Once you get your judgment from the court, you may begin any of the methods explained in this guide to collect your money.NOTE: The Judgment Creditor is the person or business that won the lawsuit and is owed the money. The Judgment Debtor is the person or business that lost the lawsuit and owes the money.
What is my first step toward collecting my judgment? (back to top)
The first step toward collecting your judgment is to try to work with the Judgment Debtor. It is almost always quicker and easier for everyone if you can work out an arrangement with the Judgment Debtor. Before beginning any of the methods explained in this guide, consider writing a short letter to the Judgment Debtor asking for payment. Remind the Judgment Debtor of the total amount due, including court costs and interest. If you wish to suggest a way to settle the debt such as a payment plan, or payment in property or services, be sure to include your suggestion in the letter. Ask the Judgment Debtor to respond to your letter in a reasonable time (10-14 days, for example).
If the response from the Judgment Debtor is negative, or if the Judgment Debtor ignores your letter, you may try to collect your money through any of the methods explained in this guide.
How can I collect my money? (back to top)
If the Judgment Debtor will not voluntarily pay you the judgment, you can use the methods explained in this guide to have the court obtain the Judgment Debtor’s income or property to pay the judgment.
If the Judgment Debtor has enough income or property to pay the judgment, there is an excellent chance that you will be able to collect the full amount of your judgment. You may need to use more than one of the methods explained in this guide to get your money.
If the Judgment Debtor does not have enough income or property to pay the judgment, it may be difficult to collect your money. Your judgment will remain active for at least five years, and you may revive (by filing a Revivor) your judgment at any time during the next ten years. Even if it is impossible to collect your money now, you may be able to collect it later.
The amounts you can collect are your judgment (or the balance if you already received some payments); your court costs including the cost of the collection filing fee, and interest on the judgment. These amounts are labeled in each of the collection documents. If you use the Small Claims Judgment Interest Calculator you will add your total court costs to the amount of the judgment before you calculate the interest. Some forms ask you to give separate numbers for the judgment amount, the court costs, and the interest. The total of those amounts will be the “total probable amount due”.
What methods can I use to collect my money? (back to top)
This guide will explain the following methods for collecting your judgment:
Collection Method 1: Bank Account Attachment (Other than Wage Garnishment, "OTW") (back to top)
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.
To collect your judgment through a bank account attachment, complete the following three steps:
Try to 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."
Obtain and complete the OTW Garnishment Packet. The OTW Garnishment Packet includes:
Once you have completed the OTW Garnishment Packet, go to the cashier’s window in the Clerk’s office on the 3rd floor and give the Clerk the Packet. You will need to pay the following filing fees:
If the OTW Attachment is successful, when will I get my money? (back to top)
If the attachment is successful, the Clerk will send your money in about 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 all of the money from the first attachment.
Collection Method 2: Wage Garnishment (back to top)
If you know where the Judgment Debtor is employed, you may garnish his or her non-exempt wages. The Municipal Court can garnish non-exempt wages from any employer in Ohio.
To garnish the Judgment Debtor’s wages, complete the following three steps:
The 15 Day Demand form is available in the Civil Division on the 3rd floor, the Small Claims Division on the 16th floor, and at the Court Forms section of this site. 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 15 days but not more than 45 days before moving on to Step 2.
Your Wage Garnishment Packet must include the following forms:
Bring your complete Garnishment Packet and a filing fee of $85.00 per employer to the Clerk's office on the 3rd floor of the court. The Clerk accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard or check made payable to “Franklin County Municipal Court.”
What happens after I file the wage garnishment? (back to top)
Within 15 days, the Judgment Debtor’s employer must state whether the Judgment Debtor works there and, if so, the employer must provide payroll information. You may call the Clerk's Civil Division room at 614-645-7220 to check the information supplied by the Judgment Debtor’s employer.
Garnishments filed first take effect first and remain in effect for at least six 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 months. You may file again if you do not receive all the money from the garnishment.
If the garnishment is successful, the Clerk will send your money after the employer has submitted the first check to the Clerk's office. This time frame may be extended if the Judgment Debtor requests a court hearing to review the garnishment. 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 614-645-7200 to check the status of your garnishment (be sure to provide your case number).
Collection Method 3: Judgment Lien on Real Estate (back to top)
If the Judgment Debtor owns a home or other land, you can get a judgment lien on his or her 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, or is refinanced, or is sold.
You will need to file two documents to get a Judgment Lien on a Judgment Debtor's real estate. The first document is the "Instructions to the Clerk." The form is available at the Clerk's office on the 3rd floor of the Municipal Court and online at the Court Forms section of this site. The Instructions to the Clerk tells the Clerk to issue a certain document. You should mark "Certificate of Judgment" on the Instructions to the Clerk. The Clerk of Court will then issue a Certificate of Judgment in your case. The Certificate of Judgment is the second document you need to get a Judgment Lien on the Judgment Debtor’s real estate.
You must take the Certificate of Judgment and file it with the Clerk of the Common Pleas Court in the county where the Judgment Debtor owns land. If the Judgment Debtor owns land in Franklin County, then you must file the Certificate of Judgment at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas located at 345 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215.
To get a Judgment Lien on a Judgment Debtor's real estate, complete the following three steps:
Obtain the “Instructions to the Clerk” form and request the Certificate of Judgment by marking "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.”
After you file the “Instructions to the Clerk,” the Clerk will prepare a “Certificate of Judgment.” The Certificate of Judgment must be filed with the Clerk of the Common Pleas Court 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 of $33.00 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 Street, 18th floor. You will need a copy of the Certificate of Judgment. The basic recording fee at the Franklin County Recorder's office is $33.00. The phone number for the Franklin County Recorder is 614-525-3930.
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 he or she pays the judgment.
What if the Judgment Debtor does not pay after the lien is filed? (back to top)
If the judgment is not paid after you file the lien, you have the following options:
If you choose any of these options, it is important that you inform the Common Pleas Court if your address changes.
How long will the judgment lien stay on the Judgment Debtor's real estate? (back to top)
A judgment lien on real estate remains in effect for five years. You may not be able to collect a judgment immediately through a judgment lien on real estate, but it will ensure that the Judgment Debtor cannot sell or refinance the property within the next five years without dealing with your lien. You may renew the lien every five years, if necessary, and if payment is delayed, you are entitled to interest from the date of judgment. You cannot collect interest during the time the lien is expired (the judgment is "dormant").
Collection Method 4: Suspension of Driver's License (back to top)
If you got your judgment because the Judgment Debtor operated a motor vehicle negligently, and it has been at least 30 days since you got your judgment, you may get the Debtor’s Ohio driver’s license suspended.
To get the Judgment Debtor’s Ohio driver’s license suspended, complete the following two steps:
Obtain the “Instructions to the Clerk” form at the Court Forms section of this site, or from the Clerk's office on the 3rd floor of the Municipal Court. On the Instructions to the Clerk 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 will usually have the above items of information.
File the Instructions to the Clerk on the 3rd floor of 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.
How long will the Judgment Debtor’s Ohio driver’s license be suspended? (back to top)
The Debtor’s Ohio driver’s license will remain suspended for seven years or until the Debtor either pays the judgment in full, or agrees with you to pay the judgment. Additional information is available http://www.bmv.ohio.gov/judgments.stm.
Collection Method 5: Attachment of Cash Drawer Funds (back to top)
If your judgment is against a business that regularly has cash on its business premises, you may attach the money kept on the premises.
To attach the Judgment Debtor’s cash drawer funds, complete the following two steps:
Obtain the “Instructions to the Clerk” form and the “Instructions to Bailiff” form from the Clerk's office on the 3rd floor of the Municipal Court or at the Court Forms section of this site.
On the “Instructions to Bailiff” form, be sure to request that the bailiff attach the funds contained in the debtor’s cash drawer and include any information you have to help the bailiff collect your money. Include the address of the business where the cash register might be found, the best time of day and/or the best day of the week to make the attachment.
File the Instructions to the Clerk and the Instructions to the Bailiff on the 3rd floor of the Municipal Court. There is a filing fee of $35.00. The Clerk accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard or check made payable to “Franklin County Municipal Court."
After about 30 days, you may check the progress of the cash drawer attachment by calling the Clerk's Civil Division at 614-645-7220, or by checking the Clerk's Search Records page at www.fcmcclerk.com/case/ or by going to the Clerk’s office and looking at the case file in person.
You may file again if the amount received from the cash drawer attachment is not the full amount of your judgment.
How often should I calculate interest on my judgment? (back to top)
The amount of money you collect through your judgment is not all of the money that you are entitled to receive. Once you have obtained your judgment, you may also add interest to it. Use the “Judgment Interest Calculator” available in the Court Forms section of this site to help you determine the correct amount of interest owed on your judgment. Each time you receive a payment from the Judgment Debtor or pay an additional court fee, you will need to calculate new interest.
The rate of interest that can be added to your judgment depends on the date your judgment was filed. If you don't know the rate of interest for your judgment, you can find a list of rates at http://tax.ohio.gov/divisions/ohio_individual/individual/interest_rates.stm.
What if I don't have the information I need to use any of these collection methods? (Oral Examination and Written Questionnaire) (back to top)
As a Judgment Creditor, you may not be able to gather enough information to use any of the five collection methods above. Ohio law provides two ways to question the Judgment Debtor about his or her income and property so that you can get the information you need to collect your judgment:
How do I request an Oral Examination? (back to top)
Any time after judgment, you may apply for an order requiring the Judgment Debtor to appear in court to answer questions, under oath, about his or her income, property, earnings, and ability to pay the judgment.
Advantages of Oral Examination
NOTE ON PERSONAL SERVICE:
The procedures for an Oral Examination require you to come to the Municipal Court at 375 S. High Street. To request an order for Oral Examination, complete the following three steps:
You may obtain the “Order of Examination of Judgment Debtor” form at the Court Forms section of Small Claims Court website. You may also obtain the form from the Small Claims Division on the 16th Floor or from the Bailiff in the “Duty Room” (Courtroom 10C) on the 10th Floor. You will need to fill out one form and then make two copies of the completed form (1 original and 2 copies). You will need a set of forms for each Judgment Debtor.
When you get to the 3rd floor, let the staff know that you are filing a Motion and Order for Oral Examination and ask for your case file from the file room. After getting your case file, take it, along with the completed examination form and 2 copies, to the cashier. If you did not sign the forms signed before a notary public, sign the forms at the cashier’s counter. The cashier will collect the fee for serving the debtor ($8.00 for ordinary mail delivery for each judgment debtor, $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).
The Duty Room is open from 9:00 am to Noon and 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm; at the Duty Room on the 10th floor, a judge will sign the order and you will receive a hearing date. “Oral Examinations” are held on Wednesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. The Duty Room Bailiff will tell you the date of your hearing. The Judgment Debtor will receive notice of the hearing in the mail.
What questions do I ask at the Oral Examination? (back to top)
If you are representing yourself at the examination, you will be asking the Judgment Debtor questions. The Debtor will be compelled to answer under oath. 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. Remember, it is no longer necessary to prove your case. Therefore, concentrate only on getting the information you need to get paid.
The following information may help you collect your judgment:
If the Judgment Debtor appears and answers your questions, refer back to the previous sections for the methods you can use to collect your judgment.
What happens if the Judgment Debtor does not appear at the Oral Examination? (back to top)
If the Judgment Debtor was personally served with the order for examination by a bailiff of the court and the Judgment Debtor does not appear in court to answer your questions, you may then ask the court to issue an order for the arrest of the Judgment Debtor. The order, which is called a “Capias Order,” is issued because the Judgment Debtor did not follow an order of the court and could be held in contempt.
The magistrate in the courtroom will authorize you to obtain a Capias Order form from the Duty Room on the 10th floor. You will have to take the form to the Cashier on the 3rd floor, pay $30.00 for the Capias Order, and then take the file and the order to the judge in the “Duty Room” (Courtroom 10C) on the 10th floor for approval.
If the judge signs the Capias Order, the Clerk will execute a warrant for the arrest of the Judgment Debtor. However, a warrant may not be executed if the Clerk does not have sufficient information about the Judgment Debtor, such as the Debtor's date of birth and social security number.
If the Judgment Debtor is apprehended, he or she will be taken into custody and may be required to post bond to secure his or her release from jail. If the Judgment Debtor is released from custody, a new oral examination will be scheduled and you will be notified of the date. The court, at its discretion, may allow you to question the Judgment Debtor before he or she is released.
You may also want to check periodically with the Clerk of Court's office, Criminal Division, to determine if the Judgment Debtor posted bond. If he or she has posted bond in a traffic or criminal case, you may be able to seize the bond money held by the Clerk using the forms and procedures followed in the “Bank Attachment” section earlier in this guide. The phone number for the Criminal Division is 614-645-8186.
How do I request a Written Questionnaire? (back to top)
The "Written Questionnaire" is an alternative to the Oral Examination and contains questions about a Judgment Debtor's assets and liabilities. A Judgment Creditor may file a motion asking the court to order the Judgment Debtor to provide answers about his or her assets and liabilities. The Written Questionnaire requires the Judgment Debtor to list all of his or her bank accounts, personal earnings, motor vehicles, personal property, real property, and secured and non-secured obligations.
Advantages of the Written Questionnaire
Disadvantages of the Written Questionnaire
To request a written questionnaire, complete the following four steps:
These forms are available in the Small Claims Division on the 16th Floor and in the Court Forms section of this website. Fill in the names and addresses of the parties, along with the case number. You will need a set of forms for each Judgment Debtor. A complete set of forms includes 1 original and 2 copies.
When you arrive on the 3rd floor, ask for your case file from the file room. Take the case file, along with the forms, to the cashier. If you forgot to have the forms signed in front of a notary public first, sign the forms at the cashier’s counter. Pay the cashier the fee for serving the debtor ($8.00 for ordinary mail delivery for each Judgment Debtor, $11.00 for certified mail service for each Judgment Debtor, or $30.00 for personal service in Franklin County for each Judgment Debtor, and $46.00 for personal service by Sheriff of Delaware, Licking, Union, Madison, Pickaway, or Fairfield County for each Judgment Debtor).
At this point, the forms will be signed by a judge and delivered to the bailiff to be served upon the Judgment Debtor.
After a reasonable time has passed (normally 14 days) check your file either in-person or by calling the Clerk's Civil Division at 614-645-7220 to find out if the Judgment Debtor has returned the questionnaire. Remember to give the Clerk your case number.
If the questionnaire has been returned and completed, refer to the previous sections of this guide for the methods to collect your judgment.
If the questionnaire is not returned, you may try the oral examination procedure described in the previous section; or, if the bailiff has personally served the Judgment Debtor with the order, you may ask the court to charge the Judgment Debtor with contempt of court (see question 23. What happens if the Judgment Debtor does not appear at the Oral Examination).
What do I do once I have collected all the judgment money from the Judgment Debtor? (back to top)
Once you have collected all of the money that is owed to you, you should file a “Satisfaction of Judgment” form with the Clerk of Court to show that the judgment has been paid. The form is available in the Court Forms section of this website and at the Small Claims Division. There is no fee to file the Satisfaction of Judgment form.
Your cooperation in filing this entry will help ensure that court records are kept up to date!
What if the judgment is more than 5 years old? (back to top)Please see "Reviving a Dormant Judgment"
Who should I contact if I need legal advice or more information? (back to top)
The Court, including Small Claims Division staff, judges, magistrates, bailiffs, and other court staff, cannot give legal advice. If you have a specific question regarding your legal rights or responsibilities, you should contact an attorney. If you need or want an attorney to represent you, you may call The Columbus Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 614-221-0754 or toll-free at 877-560-1014, or visit http://www.columbuslawyerfinder.com/ for more information about obtaining an attorney.
If you have questions about procedures in Small Claims Court you may contact the Small Claims Division at 614-645-7381 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may contact the Clerk of Court Civil Division at 614-645-7220 if you have a question about any of the court records for your case. The Small Claims Division and the Clerk of Court are open from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday.
In addition, the court maintains a website where you may view case information http://www.fcmcclerk.com/case/.