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19th Judicial Circuit > Center for Self Representation > Small Claims - After the Judgement
 

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After the Judgment


Collecting a Judgment in Illinois

If you win your case the judge will sign an order called a judgment. The judgment will say how much the losing party owes. The party who owes the money is called the judgment debtor. The party who is owed the money is called the judgment creditor. 

The court will not automatically collect the judgment for the judgment creditor. If the judgment debtor doesn’t make payment, there are some procedures the judgment creditor can follow. Some of these procedures can be time-consuming and will cost additional money, so try to discuss payment with the judgment debtor first and find out if and how the judgment debtor plans to pay you. Sometimes a simple letter reminding the judgment debtor to pay will be enough. Interest on the unpaid judgment is 9% per year (simple interest, not compound interest). Unpaid judgments can affect the judgment debtor’s credit rating.

IMPORTANT: The judge cannot order the judgment debtor to serve time in jail for not paying the amount of money due on the judgment. Also, the judgment debtor has the right to keep certain property and types of income, called exempt income or property. The judge cannot order the judgment debtor to pay the judgment from exempt income or property. Some of the most common examples of exempt property or income are:

    • Take home pay of at least $231.75/week (45 times the federal minimum wage) and at least 85% of the debtor’s gross pay. This means that the judgment debtor is entitled to keep the first $231.75 of income he earns per week. The judgment creditor can ask for a wage deduction of any amount over net pay of $231.75 up to a maximum of 15% of the judgment debtor’s total pay before taxes. 
    • Government benefits like Social Security, Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Workers Compensation Benefits and welfare payments 
    • Pension benefits 
    • Child support, alimony or maintenance payments 
    • $2000 in cash or other property specified by the debtor 
    • Up to $1200 equity interest (the value of the car less the amount owed on it) in one car 
    • Personal belongings, tools of a trade (not more than $750) 
    • Up to $7500 equity in a home ($15,000 for a married couple) 
    • Medical equipment you need because of a medical condition

Click here for "Common Ways to Collect the Judgment"

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If You Are the Judgment Debtor

If you owe a judgment, here are a couple of options you should consider:

Pay the amount due and protect your credit rating.

Pay the judgment and make sure to ask the judgment creditor to sign a form called a Satisfaction and Release of Judgment. Complete the form, have the judgment creditor sign it, and file it at the Circuit Clerk’s office. You should keep a copy for your own records. Once this form is filed, you can show any potential creditors that you paid the judgment in full.

If the judgment creditor refuses or just fails to sign the form despite your requests, you can file a motion to ask the judge to sign the release. Check with the Circuit Clerk’s office for information about the necessary papers and scheduling the motion.

IMPORTANT: Do not pay in cash without getting a receipt. Use money orders or bank certified checks as an alternative.

Pay in Installments

If you can’t pay the entire amount, but you can make installment payments, suggest a payment plan to the judgment creditor. Put your payment plan in writing and ask the judgment creditor to agree to the plan. You may be able to persuade him to take the installment payments rather than take the time and effort to start garnishment or other proceedings against you. 

If the judgment creditor does not agree, to a payment plan, you can file a motion with the court asking the judge to approve a payment plan. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 288 allows the judge to order an installment plan to pay off a small claims judgment. The judge may stop any other collection methods while you are making payments according to the plan. If you ask the judge to approve an installment plan that the judgment creditor would not agree to, be aware that a court ordered plan must pay off the judgment within three years.  Check with the clerk about how to schedule a motion to ask the judge to approve a payment plan. The motion should include the specific details of your offer to pay the judgment in installments.

Be sure you can make installment payments before you agree to them. If you agree to a payment plan that becomes part of a court order, you can be found in contempt of court if you fail to make the payments when due or in the amount agreed upon.

Protect Exempt Property or Income

Some of your income and property cannot be taken from you to pay a judgment. They are exempt.

Some of the most common examples of exempt property or income are:

    • Take home pay of at least $231.75/week (45 times the federal minimum wage) and at least 85% of your gross pay. This means you are entitled to keep the first $231.75 of income you earn per week. The judgment creditor can ask for a wage deduction of any amount over $231.75 take home up to a maximum of 15% of your pay before taxes.
    • Government benefits like Social Security, Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Workers Compensation Benefits and welfare payments
    • Pension benefits
    • Child support, alimony or maintenance payments
    • $2000 in cash or other property you specify
    • Up to $1200 equity interest (the value of the car minus the amount you owe) in one car
    • Personal belongings, tools of a trade (this amount cannot be more than $750).
    • Up to $7500 equity in a home ($15,000 for a married couple)
    • Medical equipment you need because of a medical condition

You should notify the judgment creditor if all your income and property fall into these exempt categories. If the judgment creditor still takes action to collect on the judgment, you will need to file a written notice with the clerk of court declaring the property and or income you claim is exempt. You may need to file a motion with the court to ask a judge to determine your exemption rights.

If You are Served a Citation to Discover Assets

Important: If you are served a Citation to Discover Assets, be sure to go to court on the date and at the time stated on the Citation. If you don’t go to court, the judge may order the sheriff to arrest you and bring you to court to explain why you shouldn’t be held in contempt of court.

When you receive the Citation to Discover Assets and the Citation Notice, read both papers all the way through. These papers give you important information about your rights and your responsibilities in the Citation proceeding. Prepare to go to court on the Return Date to tell the judgment creditor and the judge about your income and property. Be ready to explain why some or all of it is exempt. Bring to court with you all the documents mentioned in the Citation (or the papers attached to it). You should also be aware that once you are served with the Citation, Illinois law prohibits you from making or allowing any transfers of your non-exempt property (other than to pay the judgment) until order of the court or the citation proceeding is over.

If You are Served a Wage Deduction Notice

If the judgment creditor starts a wage deduction proceeding to collect on the judgment, check your paycheck to be sure your employer is not deducting too much of your wages. The maximum that may be deducted is the lesser of two amounts: the amount of your take home pay that is over $231.75 or 15% of your gross income. If your employer is deducting too much, discuss the matter with your employer. If your employer won’t correct the problem, you may arrange to have a hearing on the matter before the return date on the Wage Deduction Summons. You will need to notify the judgment creditor and your employer about the date and time for the hearing in writing. At the hearing you will need to show the judge what your wages are, how much your employer is deducting, and why the amount is more than the law allows.

If You Receive a Non-Wage Garnishment Notice

If the judgment creditor has started garnishment proceedings against a bank or other financial institution where you have an account, the account will be frozen until further order of the Court. You will not be allowed to remove non-exempt funds from the account. Be careful not to bounce checks on a frozen account. If the funds in your account are exempt, notify the bank immediately. If the bank won’t release your funds, but you need access to the funds before the Return Date, you may ask the Circuit Clerk to schedule a hearing on whether the funds are exempt. You will need to notify the judgment creditor and the bank about the date and time for the hearing in writing. At the hearing, you will need to prove to the judge why the funds are exempt and should be released to you.

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Common Ways to Collect the Judgment

Citation to Discover Assets Proceeding

If you don’t know whether the judgment debtor has income or assets to pay the judgment, you can go back to court to find out. This is a "supplementary" proceeding, known as a Citation to Discover Assets. The purpose of the Citation to Discover Assets proceeding is to give the judgment creditor an opportunity to find out about the judgment debtor’s income and assets, like where the judgment debtor works, how much he earns, if he has any bank accounts, where the bank accounts are located, how much is in them, and the like. If you follow the Citation procedure and find out that the judgment debtor has non-exempt income or other property to pay on the judgment, you can ask the judge to enter an order directing that the money or property be turned over to you.

Click here for "How to Do a Citation to Discover Assets Proceeding"

Wage Deduction or Garnishment

If you know where the judgment debtor works, you can takes steps to get his employer to deduct money from his wages and send it to you. A certain amount of the judgment debtor’s income is protected from wage deduction. His take home pay of at least $231.75/week (45 times the federal minimum wage) is protected. The judgment creditor can ask for a wage deduction of the lesser of any amount over $231.75 or 15% of the judgment creditor’s gross pay.

Click here for "How to Do a Wage Deduction"

Non-Wage Garnishment

If the debtor has a bank account, you can use a non-wage garnishment to collect the judgment from the account. You can also try a non-wage garnishment to get other types of property owned by a debtor, but in the hands of a third party, like stocks or bonds.

Click here for "How to Do a Non-Wage Garnishment"

Lien on Real Estate (Land)

If the debtor owns real estate, you can put a lien on the real estate for the amount of the unpaid judgment plus interest. This gives you the right under certain circumstances, to have the property sold in order to have your judgment paid. It is not generally practical to consider trying to force a sale for a small claims judgment. It costs too much and is too complicated. But a lien can be helpful. Even if the creditor doesn’t try to force a sale, the lien remains in effect for 7 years from the time it is entered or revived (an old judgment can be extended or "revived"). For that period of time, the lien will "cloud the title" of the debtor’s real estate. If he wants to sell the real estate, the judgment will have to be paid first.

Click here for "How to Place a Lien on Illinois Real Estate"

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How to Find Out About the Debtor's Income and Property

If you don’t know whether the judgment debtor has any wages or other income or property to pay the judgment, you can go back to court in the same case and start a supplemental proceeding to collect the judgment. You can read the Illinois law for this procedure at 735 ILCS 5/2-1402 and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 277. There is also a local rule for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Rule 15.03.

You start the process by completing two forms: the "Citation to Discover Assets" form and the "Citation Notice" form. The Citation to Discover Assets form tells the judgment debtor to come back to court on a specific date and time to answer questions under oath about his income and other sources of money, like bank accounts. It may also require the judgment debtor to bring various papers to court for the judgment creditor to inspect, such as tax returns, pay stubs and bank records. The Citation Notice form tells the judgment debtor about the debtor’s exemption rights and how to claim the exemption rights.

STEP ONE: Complete the Forms and Get a Court Date from the Circuit Clerk’s Office

You can get the Citation to Discover Assets form and the Citation Notice at the Circuit Clerk’s office.  If you get the form at the Clerk’s office, the front of the form is the Citation to Discover Assets, and the back is the Citation Notice. Complete both forms. You will need to include:

On the Citation to Discover Assets form

    • The name and address of the judgment debtor
    • The date of the judgment
    • The amount of the judgment
    • The amount that has not been paid, plus any interest on the unpaid amount
    • The date and time of the hearing on the Citation to Discover Assets. You will need to schedule a date and time for the court date with the Circuit Clerk’s office and include that information on the citation form.

On the Citation Notice Form

  • The judgment debtor’s name and last known address
  • The amount of the judgment
  • Your name or your attorney’s name and address

STEP TWO: Arrange for Service of the Forms on the Judgment Debtor

The judgment debtor risks arrest if he does not go to court on the court date, so it is absolutely necessary that the judgment debtor receive advance notice of the court date. You can arrange for service of the Citation to Discover Assets form and the Citation Notice by one of these methods:

  • The Sheriff, a private process server, or anyone over age 18 who is not a party to the case may serve the Citation to Discover Assets and the Citation Notice on the judgment debtor. The sheriff’s office, process server or other person must sign a sworn statement stating the time, manner and place of service of the Citation to Discover Assets and the Citation Notice. The sworn statement must be included in the court file. YOU CANNOT SERVE THESE PAPERS BY PERSONAL DELIVERY YOURSELF. 

  • You may serve the papers by registered or certified mail. If you choose certified or registered mail service, you must request that the post office give you a receipt confirming the actual delivery to the judgment debtor and the date of the delivery. You will need to show this receipt (green card) to the judge to prove that you served the judgment debtor.

Be sure to schedule the court date far enough in advance to allow enough time for the judgment debtor to be served.

STEP THREE: Attend the Court Hearing on the Citation to Discover Assets

On the date of the citation hearing, the judge will call your case. If the judgment debtor comes to court, the judge will swear in the debtor to answer your questions about his income and assets under oath. If the judgment debtor’s income or assets are all exempt, the judge cannot order any payment. If the judgment debtor testifies about some non-exempt source of money, the judge may enter an order directing the debtor to turn over the money to you, plus your costs for the Citation proceeding. You will need to write out an order that correctly states what the judge has ordered and give it to the judge to sign.

Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 288, the judge may order that the debtor pay a small claims judgment off in installments, but the time period for the installment plan cannot be more than 3 years. If the judgment debtor asks you for a payment plan, you might want to consider it before you spend time and resources on other collection methods.

If the judgment debtor does not come to court and has been properly served the Citation to Discover Assets, the judge may enter an order called a "Order and Rule to Show Cause."  The Order and Rule to Show Cause directs the judgment debtor to come to court an a specific date and time to show why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to appear. The Order and Rule to Show Cause must be personally served on the judgment debtor—face to face, hand to hand—not on another family member or by certified mail. You should plan to go to court on the date specified in the Order and Rule to Show Cause and proceed with the Citation.

If the judgment debtor fails to appear in court on the Order and Rule to Show Cause, the judge may enter an order call a "Body Attachment." This Order directs the sheriff to find the judgment debtor and take him into custody to appear in court and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to appear for the Citation hearing. You will need to check periodically with the Clerk’s office to find out if the Sheriff has found the judgment debtor and served him the Order.

If all of the judgment debtor’s income and property are exempt or the judgment debtor does not have enough to pay off the entire judgment, you can ask the judge to "continue" the Citation to another date. On that date you can examine the judgment debtor again about his income and property to determine if his situation has changed and he is able to pay you more. Generally, the Citation proceeding cannot go on for more than 6 months, but you can ask the judge to extend that for good cause. If the first Citation proceeding expires or is dismissed, you must get approval from a judge before you can start a new citation proceeding.

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How to do a Wage Deduction Proceeding

The judgment creditor can ask the judge to order the judgment debtor’s employer to take money out of the debtor’s pay and send it to the judgment creditor to pay off the judgment. Many people call this a wage garnishment, but in Illinois it is called a wage deduction. You can read the Illinois wage deduction law at 735 ILCS 5/12-801 through 735 ILCS 5/12-819.

Note: If the judgment debtor owes child support or spousal support, those payments take priority over a wage deduction. If the judgment debtor has any previous wage deduction order already in place, that wage deduction takes priority. If the judgment debtor has filed bankruptcy, no wage deduction order can be entered.

STEP ONE: Complete and Mail the Judgment Debtor a "Wage Deduction Notice"

You can get this notice at the Circuit Clerk’s office. The notice tells the debtor about the unpaid judgment, and your intention to ask the judge to order the judgment debtor’s employer to deduct some of his wages to pay off the judgment. It tells the judgment debtor the "Return Date." That date is very important. The return date is the date you return to court and ask the judge to order the judgment debtor’s employer to pay the non-exempt wages to you to pay off the judgment. You need to choose a Return Date that gives you enough time to mail the Wage Deduction Notice to the judgment debtor and then complete the next two steps. Talk with the Clerk about how much time to allow.

Once you follow the next several steps and the employer is served the proper papers, the employer will start to withhold non-exempt income from the judgment debtor’s pay until the judge enters an order directing the employer what to do with the money. The Notice explains that the judgment debtor can ask for a hearing before the Return Date to disagree with the wage deduction. The Notice explains that federal and Illinois law limits the amount of wages that may be deducted. It explains the amount of wages that lawfully can be deducted and the amount that is protected.

To complete this form, you must:

  • Schedule a "Return Date" with the Circuit Clerk’s office and include this date on the form.
  • State the judgment debtor’s name and last known address
  • State your name and address
  • State the amount of the judgment
  • State the amount that is unpaid
  • State the judgment debtor’s employer’s name
  • Make four (4) copies of the form before you mail it to the judgment debtor

YOU MUST MAIL THE WAGE DEDUCTION NOTICE TO THE JUDGMENT DEBTOR BEFORE YOU DO THE NEXT STEPS

STEP TWO: Complete the Affidavit for Wage Deduction Order

You can get this form from the Circuit Clerk’s office. You must certify on this form:

  • Your name
  • The judgment debtor’s name
  • The judgment debtor’s employer’s name
  • That the employer owes or will owe the judgment debtor wages
  • The last known address of the judgment debtor
  • The date of the judgment
  • The amount of the judgment
  • The costs for the wage deduction proceeding and any other collection proceeding costs
  • The interest due (9% per year on any unpaid amount of the judgment)
  • The total amount the judgment debtor has already paid on the judgment
  • That you have mailed the Wage Deduction Notice to the judgment debtor

STEP THREE: File the Affidavit for Wage Deduction Order and the Interrogatories/ Answer to Wage Deduction Proceedings Form and ask the Clerk to Issue the Wage Deduction Summons

After you have completed the Affidavit for Wage Deduction Order, you will need to complete a form called the "Interrogatories/Answer to Wage Deduction Proceedings" form. You will then file both of these forms with the clerk. The Interrogatories are questions that the employer must answer about the wages owed to the judgment debtor so that the proper amount of non-exempt wages can be deducted. When you take the forms to the Circuit Clerk’s office to file, the Clerk will give you a "Wage Deduction Summons" to complete. The Clerk’s office will need to complete the bottom part of the form. You will need to include the "Return Date" from Step One on the Wage Deduction Summons.

STEP FOUR: Arrange for Service of the Wage Deduction Summons, the Interrogatories/ Answer to Wage Deduction Proceedings, the Wage Deduction Notice and the Affidavit for Wage Deduction Order on the Employer.

You need to serve the employer one (1) copy of the Wage Deduction Summons, one (1) copy of the Wage Deduction Notice, one (1) copy of the Affidavit for Wage Deduction and four (4) copies of the Interrogatories/Answer to Wage Deduction form.

YOU CANNOT DELIVER THESE PAPERS YOURSELF. All four of these forms must be served on the employer by the Sheriff’s office, a private process server, or by certified mail arranged through the Circuit Clerk’s office.

Proof of Service. The sheriff’s office or process server must file a sworn statement that they served the papers and the sworn statement must be included in the court file. If the Clerk serves by certified mail, the Clerk should attach the returned receipt to a copy of the Wage Deduction Summons and include it in the court file as proof of service on the employer. The employer must be served at least 3 days before the Return Date. Be sure to check with the Clerk’s Office at least 3 days before the Return Date to be sure the employer was properly served.

If the employer is served fewer than 3 days before the Return Date, you need to go to court on the Return Date and ask the judge for another return date. You need to notify the employer and the judgment debtor in writing about this new court date and provide the judge written certification about how and when you notified them. If the employer has not been served yet, you will need to get a new Wage Deduction Summons (called an "Alias" Summons) and redo this step.

STEP FIVE: The Employer Completes the Interrogatories/Answers to Wage Deduction Proceedings Form, then Files and Mails it to the Judgment Creditor and the Judgment Debtor

The employer is required to answer the interrogatories, file the completed form with the court, and mail or deliver a copy of its answers to the judgment debtor and to you.

When the employer receives the summons, the employer must hold a portion of the judgment debtor’s non-exempt wages. The employer is not allowed to deduct from take-home pay any amount that would leave the judgment debtor less than 45 times the current federal minimum wage. Right now, the federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour. This means that the debtor is entitled to take home at least $231.75 per week. If the judgment debtor makes less than this amount, no wages can be deducted. If the judgment debtor makes more than this amount per week, the employer can deduct the lesser of the following two amounts: (1) 15% of weekly gross wages, or (2) the amount of take-home pay over and above $231.75. The employer may also withhold an additional small amount as a fee for responding to the wage deduction process.

STEP SIX: Go to Court on the Return Date

On the return date, the judge will decide whether the employer should turn the money being held over to you. The judge cannot do this unless the Wage Deduction Affidavit certifies that a copy of the Wage Deduction Notice has been mailed to the judgment debtor AND the employer's answer to the interrogatories provides a summary of the calculations used to determine the amount of non-exempt wages. If the judgment debtor has non-exempt wages, the judge will order the employer to withhold the non-exempt wages and pay them to you until the judgment is paid. The judge will enter the "Wage Deduction Order" directing the employer to pay the non-exempt wages to you. You will need to complete the form according to the judge’s directions, and hand it up to the judge to be signed. If the judge signs the wage deduction order, you must provide a copy of the order to the employer so that the employer will turn over the funds withheld to you.

If the employer says in the Interrogatories/Answer to Wage Deduction Proceeding form that the judgment debtor does not have non-exempt wages to pay toward the judgment, the judge can enter an order called the "Non-Withholding Wage Deduction Order." This Order can continue the wage deduction lien until such time as non-exempt funds become available to pay toward the judgment. You can also follow this procedure if the judgment debtor has insufficient wages to pay the judgment because of child support, spousal support or a previous wage deduction. This will save you from having to do several of the steps again if the judgment debtor’s circumstances change but he stays with the same employer.

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How to do a Non-Wage Garnishment

If you know where the judgment creditor has a bank account or if you know of some other third party that holds funds for the judgment creditor, you can use a non-wage garnishment proceeding to get the non-exempt funds for payment on the judgment. You can read the Illinois law about non-wage garnishment at 735 ILCS 5/12-701 through 735 ILCS 5/12-719.

STEP ONE: Complete the Forms, Go to the Circuit Clerk’s Office to get a Return Date for the Summons and Have the Summons Issued by the Clerk

You will need four(4) forms: the Affidavit for Garnishment Non-Wage, the Interrogatories to Garnishee, the Non-Wage Garnishment Notice, and the Garnishment Summons—Non-Wage. You can get and complete these forms at the Circuit Clerk’s office or by clicking on the links above.  You will need to schedule with the Circuit Clerk’s office the date and time to return to court about the garnishment, called the "Return Date." You will need this information to complete the summons. You will also need to get from the Circuit Clerk one (1) certified copy of the judgment you are trying to collect. You should attach this certified copy of the judgment to the Summons.

You will need to include:

On the Affidavit for Garnishment – Non-Wage Form
This form asks you to state under the oath, the following:

    • Your name
    • The date of the judgment
    • The judgment debtor’s name
    • The amount of the judgment
    • The amount that has been paid on the judgment
    • The amount that has not been paid, plus any interest on the unpaid amount and costs to collect on the judgment
    • The last known address for the judgment debtor.

The reverse side of the form (or the second page if you get the form on line) is labeled the "Interrogatories to Garnishee." This form will be described in Step Two, below.

On the Non-Wage Garnishment Notice
This form asks you to include:

    • Your name and address
    • The judgment debtor’s name and address
    • The amount of the judgment
    • The amount unpaid on the judgment
    • The name of the Garnishee [the Garnishee is the bank or other third party that is holding funds in the name of the judgment debtor.]
    • The Return Date

On the Garnishment Summons Non-Wage
On this form you need to include:

    • The name and address of the garnishee
    • The "Return Date" for the summons. You need to schedule the Return Date with the Circuit Clerk. The date must be 21 to 30 days after the Clerk issues the Summons. The Clerk issues the Summons by completing the bottom of the summons form and placing the seal of the court on it.
    • Your name and address

When you have completed the three (3) forms, take them to the Circuit Clerk and ask the Clerk to issue the summons. File the papers. Attach the certified copy of the judgment you got from the Circuit Clerk to the Summons. Make four (4) copies of all the forms. Make seven (7) copies of the Interrogatories to Garnishee form. Four (4) of the Interrogatories to Garnishee copies must be served on the garnishee for the garnishee to complete.

STEP TWO: Arrange for Service on the Garnishee and Judgment Debtor

You need to serve the garnishee one (1) copy of the Affidavit for Garnishment Non-Wage form, one (1) copy of the Garnishment Summons Non-Wage, one (1) copy of the Non-Wage Garnishment Notice and 4 (four) copies of the Interrogatories to Garnishee form.

YOU CANNOT DELIVER THESE PAPERS YOURSELF. All four of these forms must be served on the garnishee by the Sheriff’s office, a private process server, or by certified mail arranged through the Circuit Clerk’s office.

You must make sure that the garnishee is served properly, but the judgment debtor must be notified also. The rules give the person who serves the garnishee this duty too. Within two days of service, the person who serves the Summons must also send by first class mail a copy of the Garnishment Summons Non-Wage and the Non-Wage Garnishment Notice to the judgment debtor at the address for the judgment debtor you have included in the Non-Wage Garnishment Notice. Within four days of serving the garnishee, the person who has completed the service must file with the Circuit Clerk a certificate of mailing stating that the forms were mailed to the judgment debtor. The reverse side of the Garnishment Summons-Non-Wage form includes a space for the process server to complete this certification and to describe the service on the garnishee.

If you have asked the Clerk to serve the garnishee by certified mail, the Clerk’s office will also need to mail to the judgment debtor the Garnishment Summons Non-Wage and the Non-Wage Garnishment Notice within 4 business days of sending the mailing to the garnishee. The Clerk’s office must also prepare a Certificate of Mailing certifying that the documents were mailed to the judgment debtor.

IMPORTANT: The judge cannot enter an order to turn over money to you unless the Certificate of Mailing is included in the court file.

The garnishee must be served at least 10 days before the Return Date. Be sure to check with the Clerk’s Office to be sure the garnishee was properly served.

If the garnishee was served fewer than 10 days before the Return Date, you need to go to court on the Return Date and ask the judge for another return date. You need to notify the garnishee and the judgment debtor in writing about this new court date and provide the judge written certification about how and when you notified them. If the garnishee has not been served yet, you will need to get a new Garnishment Summons Non-Wage issued by the Circuit Clerk and redo this step.

STEP THREE: The Garnishee Must Hold Non-Exempt Funds and then Complete the Garnishment Interrogatories Forms and Return them to the Circuit Clerk

Once the garnishee receives the summons and other forms, the garnishee must do two things. First, it must "freeze" the non-exempt monies or property it has for the judgment debtor and not release them to the judgment debtor. The amount held cannot be more than the amount still due and owing on the judgment. The garnishee cannot freeze any exempt income or property. For example, if the judgment debtor’s bank account includes Social Security benefits directly deposited into the account by the federal government, the bank cannot withhold the benefits from the judgment debtor even though the bank has been served the Non-Wage Garnishment summons.

Second, the garnishee needs to answer the questions on the Garnishment Interrogatories forms. The garnishee then needs to send a completed copy to both you and the judgment debtor. On or before the Return Date, the garnishee must file with the Circuit Clerk the completed form and sign a certification on the file copy that a copy had been mailed to the judgment debtor.

Before you go to court on the Return Date, you should check with the Clerk’s office and ask if the garnishee has completed this step.

STEP FOUR: Go to Court on the Return Date

On the Return Date, if the garnishee and the judgment debtor have been properly served, the judge will review the garnishee’s answers to the interrogatories, and determine if the garnishee holds non-exempt money or other property of the judgment debtor that should be turned over to you to pay the judgment. Be aware that claims for support of a spouse or child support take priority over any other claims for garnishment.

If the judge decides that the garnishee should turn over monies or property to you to pay on the judgment, you will need to complete an Order form for the judge to sign. Be specific so that the garnishee knows what it is supposed to do. You can use the Turn Over Order available at the Circuit Clerk’s office. If the judge signs the order, be sure to get a copy of the order to the garnishee to authorize release of the judgment debtor’s money or other property to you.

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How to place a Lien on Real Property

If the judgment debtor owns Illinois real estate, like his own home, you can place a lien on the property for the amount of the unpaid judgment. If the judgment debtor decides to sell the real estate, your judgment will have to be paid out of any sale proceeds. To place the lien on the property, go to the Circuit Clerk’s office and ask the Clerk to prepare a form called a "Memorandum of Judgment." Take the Memorandum of Judgment form prepared by the Clerk’s office to the Recorder of Deeds for the Illinois county where the real estate is located. In Lake County, the Recorder of Deeds is located on the second floor of the courthouse. Once you record the Memorandum at the Recorder of Deeds office, the lien is in place. A similar process could be followed for real estate located in Illinois counties other than Lake County.

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