The basic notion of suing someone is you’re asking your local courts to back you on garnishing your debtor. Also known as having the ability to take money out of your debtor’s paycheck or bank account. Whether or not you’re in Henrico, Va or not, this is a good outline to study if you ever need to collect on a bad debt.
What Entities You Can You Garnish?
- The defendants’ employer– if you’re debtor is employed you will garnish their employer for your money
- The defendant’s bank account– if you’re debtor has a bank account that you know of you will garnish their bank (any and all accounts)
Garnishment works, but you need to get your paperwork right to be successful.
So if you really suck at details and filling out paperwork, this is not for you.
I’ll stop with the parenting and move forward with the basics that you must get down.
The following information serves as your outline to take someone to small claims court in Virginia.
Some courts in the state of Virginia have variations of the process; however, I know from first-hand experience you can use this outline for Chesterfield and Henrico general district courts.
Quick Links You Should Bookmark
Warrant in Debt
When you fill out a warrant you’re creating an invitation for the defendant (the person who owes you money) to meet you for a hearing with you and the judge.
Before you fill out a warrant you want to know the answers to the following questions.
- Is your customer out of state?
- Is your customer employed?
- Have you skip traced your customer?
The warrant in debt document is the first stage of collecting in court. It’s not that hard to fill out. But as with everything mentioned on this site you must pay attention to details.
If your paperwork is wrong the courts may reject it. From the jump you must learn how to fill out everything correctly starting with the warrant in debt.
- Names- Usually the last name comes first. Don’t jack that up
- Return Dates – This is the date you fill out to meet your customer at the court
- Plaintiff’s Agent- You are the plaintiff’s agent if there is no legal representative
The warrant in debt is like this— it’s a request asking the courts to set an appointment otherwise know as a return date.
That appointment is with your debtor/customer at the courthouse on a specify day and time. And that appointment is to discuss whether money is owed to you or your business.
It works well too.
With that said, you better be darn sure the person you’re suing in small claims owes you money.
In summary, don’t play around here; f you need some legal advice you should start with a lawyer.
Clay’s Word of Advice
It’s true you can collect on bad debts through the courts not being a lawyer. I’m not one myself, I’m just what you call a skilled debt collector.
But the truth is both defendants and plaintiffs must answer to the courts. That means you’re playing with fire if you don’t have the heart to follow through on things. I cannot stress how important it is to pay close attention to details when using the legal systems. Always be credible.
I’m done with the advice.
Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Affidavit
This affidavit accompanies every warrant in debt. The reason you use it is to prove that the debtor you are suing in small claims court isn’t enlisted in the military.
The SCRA acronym stands for soldiers civil relief act and you must get a military attorney for you customer if our customer is enlisted in the armed forces. This will be billed into your court costs if your debtor is in the military.
Your process server can be the sheriff of a third party agent. These people deliver your legal documents to your debtor. This is where the term “you’ve been served” comes from.
Your process sever finds your debtor and they deliver your warrant, or garnishment papers.
You Can Use Either of the Following Process Servers
- Sheriff’s Office: $12 in Richmond Va
- Third Party Servicing: $10 MTG
Secretary of Commonwealth
The Secretary of the Commonwealth is the right hand of the courts. They serve people documents as an end all measure to find someone in the event your warrant in debt or garnishment summons is returned as a “not found”.
The SOC will find your debtor or make sure that your papers are delivered to the right person on time.
- One reason a certified mail receipt is required when using the Secretary of Commonwealth to serve a warrant in debt when the customer is out of state or not found. The second reason is when we are using the SOC to serve a garnishment to a business that is out of state.
- The SOC costs $28 and you will build this cost into your court costs that debtor will pay when he or she is garnished.
Do you have your evidence ready?
Your proof is called your evidence. Your evidence is a signed agreement and dated contract.
Your evidence can come in many forms, but a signed contract stating the contractual amount owed according the terms of the agreement is your number one requirement.
So, yes, if you have evidence you can sue someone in small claims court.
- What is your return date?
Although most information gathered in skip tracing is often public information oriented, there are some cases where the big guns need to be pulled out. What I’m getting at is there are additional paid for research databases that lender and debt collectors have access to that contain not only your personal information but who your associates are: family members, business partners, even worse- your neighbors! Look yourself up on these databases to see what others can find out about you.
- Death Index
- Lexis Nexis | Accurint
- First Search- Equifax
- The Work Number- Equifax
When your return date arrives you will go to the courthouse and meet the debtor (the person who owes you your money). The judge will ask the defendant if they owe the money. If they say no, the judge will set a trial date. If the debtor says yes, the judge will ask you for a motion. You have several options depending on the circumstances, but you want to tell the judge you want a judgement.
The judgement is point of suing a debtor in court. Once you capture a judgement you are getting the official go-ahead which allows you to issue a court ordered garnishment.
What You’ll Do On Your Return Date
- Present your evidence that the defendant owes you money. You don’t have to say much at all. The bottom line is the judge just wants to know if the debtor owes the money.
- If the debtor does not show you will automatically get judgement and this is called a default judgment.
- If the defendant shows and says that they do not owe the money then the judge will more than likely ask why. And if the judge senses that the defendant wants a trial to contest the small claims suit he will set a trial date.
- If there is a trial date you will be ordered to send the defendant your bill of particulars. After that the defendant will send you their grounds of defense.
If you’ve made it this far you’re on your way to getting your money. The judge gave you judgement and you have the right to send the debtor’s job (or bank) a court ordered command to pay you your money. At least for the amount of time the debtor is employed there.
If you have a business HR headquarters that your serving a garnishment you do not always have to use the Secretary of the Commonwealth. You always want to check to see if a business has a registered agent first.
A registered agent is in place to handle a nationwide businesses’ garnishment needs. It’s kind of like having a satellite office in the state you live in for a business that’s in let’s say Georgia.
If your customer has skipped town or transferred to a different state with the same job they had in Virginia, it’s a good chance their employer has a registered agent that will correspond with the business located in Georgia.
You will fill out three forms to garnish:
- Garnishment summons
- Suggestion for Summons in Garnishment- This is a form asking the general district courts to pursue garnishment at a the job or bank stated.
- Garnishees Answer
Quick Tips on Garnishments:
- Garnishing Employers – you will set your next return date for 180 day out
- The formula to determine your interest is principle x interest rate / 365 days X 180 days
- Research to confirm job and bank (Equifax and Work Number Link)
- Fill out garnishment paperwork: three items
- Deliver to clerk
Pick Up Money at the Courthouse
Total time in between warrant and pickup is 45 days + 180 days. That enough time to get back $2500 dollars at a minimum. I know this from experience, but I’m sure its possible to get back even more within that time frame.
Letter of Satisfaction
When you collect your money in full using the courts, you will finalize your debt collection with a letter of satisfaction. They are easy to fill out and you will turn the paperwork in to notify the courts that the debtor is paid in full. This is extremely important because the customer’s credit report will show that they are still in debt to a company or person if the courts do no lift the judgement off of the debtors personal file.
Take note that your process server also serves your papers to the Secretary of the commonwealth. This is an additional court cost. Its $28 dollars in Henrico Va.
This can get quite tricky, because you do not always have to choose using the SOC to carry out a service. If you do however choose to use the SOC to serve your documents, you will get great service because the Secretary of the Commonwealth doesn’t play around.
For example, the SOC in Virginia will place your service documents in the hands of the SOC in a different state. So this in essence is a state to state (government) processing.
Hope thins sets you in the right direction in the event someone ever runs off with your money and doesn’t pay you back.
In addition. You can always email me if you have a question.
** Disclaimer **
I am not a lawyer. I just know how to garnish wages because I have more than eight years of experience managing accounts. If you need a lawyer get one. I can give people my personal take on how to issue a warrant in debt and how garnish wages and banks, but I am not a lawyer.