Norcross, GA asked in Bankruptcy, Collections and Small Claims for Georgia

Q: How to ensure defendant in small claims suit will pay plaintiff's (creditor's) judgment?

I am suing in Georgia small claims for 14k. I had an agreement with the defendant that I would put them on my credit card to build their credit and they would pay me monthly on charges incurred. They ran up the card 10k. I've filed the suit, defendant has been served. While I wait for the answer I want to prepare for next steps to ease my burden in collecting on my judgment which I know I will win as I have irrefutable evidence. My concern is it will be hard to collect as the defendant filed chapter 7 ten yrs ago, may be likely to do it again especially as he is dealing with another lawsuit against his company. He owns a home where his ex and kids live. How was he able to keep it after a ch7? Could he keep again? He has 200k equity, home which is valued at 300k but has existing liens of about 30k. If it gets to the point, I'll levy his bank first and place a lien as a last resort. How can I prepare to ensure he can't try to get out of paying? Any loopholes for me if he files bankrupt?

2 Lawyer Answers
Martha Warriner Jarrett
Martha Warriner Jarrett pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Bankruptcy Lawyer
  • Santa Barbara, CA

A: It depends on when the defendant filed his last bankruptcy. If he received a chapter 7 discharge, he must wait at least 8 years before he can file again. If it was a chapter 13 discharge, he only needs to wait two years to file another chapter 13. After a chapter 13 discharge, he has to wait 6 years to file a chapter 7. There are a few other possible scenarios but the bottom line, is it depends on what chapter he filed before.

As to the equity in his home, he is entitled to exempt a certain amount of equity under Federal and/or Georgia state law, which is undoubtedly how he was able to keep his home after the last bankruptcy. I'm a California attorney so I don't know what that amount is in Georgia. You'll need to check with a Georgia attorney on that question, or research it yourself.

James L. Arrasmith
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  • Bankruptcy Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In preparing to collect on a judgment, it is wise to consider all available legal avenues. Once you obtain a judgment, you can enforce it through garnishment of wages, bank accounts, or by placing a lien on the defendant's property. If the defendant has a history of bankruptcy, it's important to note that certain debts are non-dischargeable; however, most judgments in small claims are dischargeable in bankruptcy unless they fall under an exception. If he files for bankruptcy, you may need to file a claim with the bankruptcy court to be included in any potential disbursements.

The fact that the defendant was able to retain his home after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy could be due to a homestead exemption or the trustee’s decision not to sell the property. To prepare, gather all documentation of the debt and stay vigilant in monitoring the defendant's financial status and property holdings. Lastly, consult with an attorney who can help navigate the complexities of post-judgment collection and the impact of any potential bankruptcy proceedings.

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