One of the best and ironically, worst things that ever happened to our legal system was a television program called The People’s Court. On this television show, people agreed to dismiss their lawsuits in the California Small Claims Court in exchange for arguing their case on television program. The litigants would each argue their side of the case passionately. Judge Wapner would then render a verdict in favor of one of the parties. The winner would claim and collect his “verdict” after gloating with Doug Llewellyn, the show’s on air personality.

Small Claims Court, in reality, is not like that at all. While one has a right to represent one’s self in Small Claims Court, there is a large misconception that once one obtains a judgment, that the defendant is going to be magically convinced to pay it. In reality, defendants rarely pay judgments unless they are pressured to do so.

After your judgment is 21 days old, you can go collect it. The law allows the defendant three weeks from the date the judge gave you a verdict, to voluntarily pay the debt. If the defendant decides not to pay, then you can have some fun with him.

Wage Garnishment

If you know where the defendant works, you can garnish his wages. Its as simple as going to court clerk and asking for a Periodic Garnishment form. The clerk will charge you a dollar or less for the form. You fill it out and sign it. The clerk will charge you $20 to file the garnishment with the court (Yes, you must file it). Then you must serve the garnishment by certified mail. The garnishment is actually a new lawsuit against the defendant’s employer. It directs the employer to pay money that it would have otherwise paid to the defendant as wages, over to you. This type of garnishment is good for 90 days against the employer, from the date it was served.

Bank Garnishment

If you know where the defendant has a bank account or even a brokerage account, you can file a Non Periodic Garnishment. This type of garnishment is effective on the date it is served on the bank or brokerage account. It is good on the day that it is served. Hence, if you know when the defendant’s paycheck is deposited into his bank account, you may want to have this Non Periodic Garnishment served that same day. It effectively freezes the bank account to the extent of your judgment.

Writ of Execution

If you know what kind of vehicle that the defendant drives, (e.g. car, motorcycle, jet ski, snowmobile, trailer, etc), you can get a Writ of Execution from the court clerk. The problem with these is that unless you have a relationship with a court officer, he may or may not work your writ. The court officer is paid by taking a percentage of what he sells. However, it is the defendant that has to pay these costs.

State of Michigan Income Tax Garnishment

If you have your debtor’s social security number, you can take his income tax refund. Be sure to file this early enough to catch the tax refund before the State mails it out to the debtor. For example, to take the debtors’ 2004 income tax refund, file the Writ of State Income Tax Refund Garnishment no later than January of 2005. Also, you must serve the State of Michigan with this kind of a garnishment.

Creditors Exam Subpoena

If you fill out the top part of the front of a subpoena and the back bottom part of it, you can have your debtor appear in court and answer questions about his income and expenses. Be sure to write on the front of the subpoena that you want him to appear with his tax returns for the past three years, all brokerage statements and titles to any vehicles that he owns. The big secret here is to make sure that the debtor is personally served with the subpoena so if he fails to appear, you can ask the court to have him arrested. Ask the court clerk to have the court’s bailiff serve the subpoena.


There are many fine techniques that you can use to collect your judgment. Just know that once you get a judgment in the Small Claims Division of the District Court, that no attorney can ever get involved in collecting that judgment; at least not officially. While a court clerk may not give you legal advise, you certainly can ask for any of the above forms and fill them out yourself, and collect your own.

Kevin M. Taylor is an attorney that specializes in debt collection. He is the founder of Kevin M. Taylor, P.C., Collection Attorneys. Kevin M. Taylor, P.C. has been collecting debts for large and small business for the past 15 years. Kevin M. Taylor, P.C. is at 24901 Northwestern Hwy #306, Southfield, MI 48075. For more information call (248) 223-1999 or visit us at