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Small Claims Cases

This legal research guide provides information about small claims cases in justice court and provides links to filing information for select Texas counties.

Collecting a Judgment


Note Small claims procedures may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see the Courts page as well as the Landlord/Tenant page on the COVID-19 & Texas Law research guide for current information related to COVID-19 and small claims issues.

Collecting a Money Judgment

If the court grants you a judgment for the debt owed to you (sometimes referred to as a judgment creditor), that does not automatically mean you will get the money owed to you. You will need to take steps in order to try and collect the money owed to you. Texas law provides a few different ways in which you can try and collect the debt. See the resources below for information on the different options available. For those who have a judgment against them for a debt that is owed (sometimes referred to as a judgment debtor), check out our Debt Collection research guide for resources on your rights as a debtor.

Texas Law

Court Rules

Understanding the Law

Judgments Issued by Another State or Foreign Country in Texas

For creditors who want to try and collect on a judgment issued by a court from another state or foreign country, they must first have their foreign judgment "domesticated" here in Texas. Once domesticated, they may then try to collect the debt owed to them with the methods discussed below. See the resources below for more information.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

Do Judgments Expire in Texas?

Judgments issued in Texas with a non-government creditor are generally valid for ten years but they can be renewed for longer. If a judgment is not renewed, it will become dormant.

You can attempt to revive a dormant judgment in order to continue to try and collect the debt. However, you generally only have two years in which to try and revive a dormant judgment. See the resources below for more information.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

Filing a Judgment Lien

One of the ways in which a creditor could attempt to collect on their judgment is by placing a judgment lien on real property owned by the debtor.  By filing a judgment lien, if the debtor sells any non-exempt property, you may be able to get all or some of the money you are owed from the proceeds of the sale. A judgment lien lasts for ten years.

According to Section 52.001 of the Texas Property Code, a judgment lien cannot attach to any real property that is exempt from seizure or forced sale under Chapter 41 of the Texas Property Code. The debtor can file a "Homestead Affidavit of Release of Judgment Lien" on a property with a homestead exemption. The statutory language for this affidavit can be found in Section 52.0012 of the Texas Property Code.

To file a judgment lien, an abstract of judgment (commonly called an "AJ") must be recorded in the county where the real property is located or where property could be owned in the future. Rules for the issuance of an abstract of judgment can be found in Section 52.002 of the Texas Property Code. Unless you are represented by an attorney, the abstract of judgment must be issued by the justice court. Some of the Texas justice courts have a form to request the issuance of an abstract of judgment available on their website. If there is no form available for your justice court, you will need to contact their office for more information on how to request an abstract of judgment be issued.

Once the abstract of judgment has been issued, it may then be filed with the county clerk where the real property is located. County clerks will require a fee in order to record this document into the property records. Check the county clerk's website or contact their office for their current fee schedule.

See the resources below for more information on filing a judgment lien.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

Requesting a Writ of Execution

Another way a creditor may try to collect their judgment is through a writ of execution.  Requesting a writ of execution from the court would allow the debtor's non-exempt property to be seized and sold with the proceeds going to the debt owed to the creditor. Some of the Texas justice courts have a form to request a writ of execution available on their website. See the resources below for more information.

Texas Law

Court Rules

Forms

If the justice of the peace court you intend to file with does not provide a form, a sample application is available at the link below.

Once issued, the writ of execution directs the sheriff to seize the non-exempt property and sell it. The proceeds of the sale are given to the creditor to satisfy all or part of the judgment.

Requesting a Writ of Garnishment

Garnishment is a remedy that allows a judgment creditor to order a third party that holds or owes property to the debtor (e.g., a bank) to turn over any of that property in order to satisfy the judgment. While some property is exempt from garnishment in Texas, such as wages, other property such as bank accounts and stocks may be subject to garnishment. The garnishment of a bank account is also commonly referred to as a bank levy. See the resources below for more information.

Texas Law

Court Rules

Understanding the Law

Forms

Some of the Texas justice courts have a form to request a writ of garnishment available on their website. If the justice court you intend to file with does not provide a form, a sample application is available at the link below.

Requesting a Turnover Order

If a debtor owns nonexempt property that the creditor cannot obtain by any of the other methods mentioned above, they can request assistance from the court through a turnover proceeding. As governed by Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §31.002, in turnover proceedings the Court may:

If the debtor refuses to comply with the turnover order, the creditor may request the court to enforce the order through contempt proceedings. 

See the resources below for more information.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

E-Books from the Texas State Law Library

You can borrow the e-books below with your library account. Don't have a library account? Texas residents can register for a library account online! Learn more about how to register online.

Books at the Texas State Law Library

These print books are not available online. They are available at the Texas State Law Library in Austin. If you can't visit the library in person, these books might be available at a law library near you or a public library near you.