When do I find out if I was awarded a judgment after a small claims trial?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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There a number of ways a court judgment will be awarded and the amount of time you will have to wait varies. In some small claims cases, the judge or arbitrator will decide if you will be awarded a judgment right there–the judge may announce the judgment from the bench, although this is not the norm. Some courts have a judgment form that is completed by the court clerk and then given to the parties at the end of the proceedings. 

In most cases, the judge or arbitrator will not announce the judgement in court. This is either because they want to avoid conflict with the losing party, or with a winning party who feels he or she should have won more. In some cases, the results are sent in the mail to both parties. Even if the judge or arbitrator’s decision is clear or announced in court, the amount of the judgment and other instructions are mailed to the parties involved in the case, this may take a few days. But depending on the state, the court could take 21 or more days to announce the judgment.

Before you can collect a judgement, there are other procedural hurdles that you may come to between the announcement of your award and the day you have the money in your hand. The defendant, losing party, has a certain amount of time to appeal the judgment. The amount varies by state, but could be between 10 and 30 days. Depending on the outcome of the appeal, your judgment could be limited or thrown out. If the defendant has limited or no assets, they can file a notice alerting the court to their indigency. If this happens, you will not be able to collect until their financial status changes. For more information on small claims judgments, you should visit the courts website for your state or contact a small claims attorney in your area.

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