State of California California Department of Consumer Affairs

Collecting On a Judgment (Small Claims Court and Court Judgement)

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(Civil Code §§ 116.810 - 116.880)

You'll have to collect the judgement yourself if you win in small claims court. If you're the judgment creditor and haven't received payment of the money awarded in the judgement, make sure the other party, the judgment debtor is aware of the judgement, its amount, and where to mail payment. Often, a simple personal note to the judgement debtor requesting payment of the judgement is all that is needed to end a dispute.

The Consumer Law Sourcebook for Small Claims Court Judicial Officers indicates that although many judgement debtors voluntarily comply with the judge's decision and pay their debts, many do not. Other debtors may not have the resources or simply refuse or neglect to do so. The small claims court does not take steps to enforce its judgments, and the court will not devote resources to collecting for judgement creditors.

A pamphlet entitled "the do's and don'ts of using the small claims court" is available through the Department of Consumer Affairs, explains how to use the small claims court system and more specifically, highlight ways the judgement creditor can collect the judgement. Several books give a far more thorough treatment of this area, one is, How to Collect When You Win a Lawsuit, a comprehensive and well-written book available from bookstores and Nolo Press at (800) 992-6656 or order online at Also, the departments Consumer Law Sourcebook for small claims court judicial offices available in most court libraries, has a chapter (Ch. 16) devoted to collection of court judgements. A good legal text on judgment enforcement procedures should be consulted.

Consumer Law Sourcebook: Small Claims Court Laws & Procedures (2005):
Available from the Department of Consumer Affairs ($40)

This 684-page reference handbook written for use by small claims court judges and temporary judges, court commissioners, superior court judges who handle small claims court appeals, small claims advisers, court clerks, and others who counsel and assist disputants is the most complete work on the Small Claims Court published to date.

The $40 includes shipping and handling charges. An order form can be found on the DCA Web site at

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) maintains the Self-Help Center on its Web site to assist Californians with court procedures. The AOC does not interpret the law or provide legal advice on individual cases.

The Self-Help Center is a Web site intended to help California consumers find legal assistance, learn about California law, work better with an attorney, and represent themselves in some legal matters.

Judicial Council of California
Administrative Office of the Courts
Public Information Office
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 865-7740

Department Publications: Using the Small Claims Court

Other Publications: How to Collect When You Win a Lawsuit - Nolo Press

Other References: Small Claims Advisors and Locations

Other Referrals: Lawyer Referral, Legal Aid

Consumer Resource & Referral Guide Consumer Resource & Referral Guide
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