Options for enforcing judgment debt
- If it is known where a judgment debtor works, their wages can be garnished. A garnishee order is a court order which attaches the judgment debt to any salary or wage the judgment debtor earns above a minimum amount (currently $432.50 per week) and is effectively, a court order against the judgment debtor’s employer. This is a very effective method of enforcing a judgment.
- If examination of the judgment debtor reveals that funds are held in his/her name in financial institutions or he/she receives rental payments, a garnishee order for debts in respect of those funds can be filed. Judgment debtors generally do not supply this information.
- If the judgment debtor owns property such as furniture or other goods, a Writ for Delivery of Goods may be applied for from the court. This method of enforcing the judgment debt involves the sheriff attending the judgment debtor’s residence or business to seize goods belonging to the judgment debtor for sale at public auction. This method of enforcement can often be frustrated by claims by a judgment debtor that goods belong to a third party.
- If the judgment debtor is the sole owner of real property, a Writ for the Possession of land can be sought. The writ cannot be executed unless the judgment debtor consents or the sheriff is satisfied that the land should be sold before other property in order to minimise the hardship to the debtor.
- Generally a judgment creditor has six years from the date of judgment to commence bankruptcy proceedings. This is achieved by serving a Bankruptcy Notice on the judgment debtor. If the judgment debtor does not comply with the Bankruptcy Notice within 21 days of service, bankruptcy proceedings may be commenced against the judgment debtor. Such proceedings effectively liquidate most of the judgment debtor’s assets and obtain some of the earnings of the debtor for up to three years following bankruptcy proceedings. Bankruptcy proceedings can be very lengthy and costly and a trustee must be appointed to investigate the debtor’s affairs and realise the judgment debtor’s property for the benefit of creditors. Secured creditors will have priority over unsecured creditors.
Take home point
As a garnishee order for wages can often be the most effective and cheapest form of enforcing a judgment debt for fees, we recommend enrolment forms completed by parents to include details of their employment.