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What can you do when someone owes you money?

Money could be owed to you as a result of an unpaid loan, auto accident or unpaid rent due to a landlord. Of course, the best thing is an attempt to arrange voluntary payment of the debt. If that does not succeed, and you are not prepared to write off the debt, you will probably have to go to court.

If the debt is for less than $10,000.00, your lawsuit may be in Small Claims Court. If the party that owes you money fails to respond to your lawsuit you will probably win. If the party that owes you money disputes it, the Judge will listen to both sides and make a decision. If you prevail, you will get a judgment that may or may not be collectible. Some judgments will never be collectible. If a judgment is uncollectible now, it may become collectible in the future.

A judgment is simply a court order that states that one party owes money to another party. It is up to the winning party to collect the judgment. The Wisconsin Statutes provide two possible means of collecting the debt. They are garnishment and execution. The following is a brief summary of garnishment law.

Garnishment is a remedy that seeks property of a party owing the money that is in the hands of a third party (garnishee). Garnishment rules are found in 812 of the Wisconsin Statutes and can be either earnings or non-earnings. It is a separate action and can seize wages in the hands of an employer and bank accounts in the hand of a bank or credit union ( subject to many exceptions and exemptions).

Again, if the claim is less than $10,000.00, you can file another lawsuit in Small Claims Court.

The Complaint must allege four elements. 1. That execution is issuable on an in personam judgment. 2. The name and location of the court, case number, date of entry of the judgment, and amount of the judgment. 3. The amount of the claim. 4. That the Plaintiff believes that the garnishee is indebted to or has property in garnishee’s possession or control that belongs to the defendant which, to the best of Plaintiff’s knowledge and belief, is exempt from execution.

The garnishee is liable, as of the time of service, for property then in possession or control of the garnishee and for all debts of garnishee due or to become due to the debtor, subject to claims of exemption and limited to the amount of the Plaintiff’s claim. If the garnishee is a bank it would be required to turn over to the Plaintiff the balance in any of the debtor’s checking or savings accounts (subject to exemptions).

If the garnishee is the employer of the party owing the money the garnishee is required to withhold from his paycheck 20% of debtor’s net pay and turn it over to the Plaintiff for thirteen weeks. If there is still a balance owed after the thirteen weeks a second garnishment action would have to be filed. This thirteen-week limitation is not applicable if the debtor is an employee or officer of a state or political subdivision.