While a win in court is worth celebrating, it’s not always the end of the road for claimants. Sometimes, getting a judgment against another party leads to questions surrounding judgment enforcement. For example, what happens if you obtain a judgment against another party that they cannot pay? 

In Ontario, judgment enforcement follows a structured legal process, and judgment enforcers need to understand these processes to recover what they’re owed. Below, we’ll introduce how judgment enforcement works in Ontario. 

Remember that the options available for judgment enforcement can vary significantly depending on which court you obtained a judgment in, the type of judgment, and the parties’ unique circumstances. If you require assistance with a judgment enforcement matter, consult an experienced civil litigation lawyer for guidance. 

A Primer on Judgments (and Why Judgment Enforcement Matters) 

Taking a quick step back: when you bring a claim to court, you’ll receive a judgment once the case has been heard. The judgment will outline the rights and obligations of the parties, along with any awards that the court is making in favour of one party or the other. 

From there, the judgment serves as the legal basis for enforcing your rights against the other party. For example, the judgment might state that the defendant has to pay the plaintiff a particular amount of money as damages or that the defendant must do (or not do) something. 

Here is where things can get tricky: when issuing a judgment, the court is focused on the parties’ claim and their legal rights. It doesn’t necessarily consider how much money the defendant has or the likelihood that the defendant will pay the money they owe the claimant. So, as a successful claimant, you might find yourself in a position where the defendant cannot pay the judgment in full or ignores the terms of the judgment. This is where judgment enforcement comes in.

How Do I Enforce a Judgment? 

There are several different methods of judgment enforcement in Ontario, some of which may be used in tandem or as a later step if an initial enforcement method is unsuccessful. We’ll discuss some of these methods below. 

Contact the Debtor

In many cases, the best starting point for judgment enforcement is to contact the debtor directly to request prompt payment of the judgment. Be sure to outline your expectations regarding how the payment will be made and how soon you expect to be paid. 

Apply to the Court for an Examination in Aid of Execution

Before you can enforce a judgment, the claimant may need to bring an application for an examination in aid of execution against the debtor. This process can be particularly helpful when the claimant needs more information on the debtor’s assets to determine which method of judgment enforcement may be the most effective. 

Under Rule 60.18 of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, RRO 1990, Reg 194, a claimant may examine a debtor on a wide variety of matters, including the reason for non-payment; the extent of the debtor’s income, property, and debts; and other matters that may be relevant to judgment enforcement. 

Apply to the Court for Enforcement

If the debtor fails to follow the orders of a judgment, the claimant can apply to the court for enforcement under Rule 60.02 of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, RRO 1990, Reg 194. For judgment enforcement relating to payment or the recovery of money, the claimant has several options for enforcement, depending on the circumstances of the case, the most common of which are as follows: 

Garnishment 

A claimant can file a notice of garnishment against a debtor by asking the court to order the debtor’s bank or employer to “garnish” their wages or bank account to pay the amount owing on the judgment. 

Keep in mind that certain restrictions apply—for one, the amount of wages that can be garnished is restricted under the Wages Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. W.1, and payments such as employment insurance, social assistance, and payment plans are exempt from garnishment. 

Writ of Seizure and Sale of Personal Property 

A claimant can file a writ of seizure and sale of personal property against a debtor, allowing the claimant to direct that specific possessions of the debtor be sold at public auction to help satisfy the amount owing on the judgment. While the debtor is entitled to choose what items will be sold, there are limitations on what can be seized from the debtor and sold under the Execution Act, RSO 1990, c E.24

Writ of Seizure and Sale of Land

A claimant can file a writ of seizure and sale of land against a debtor, which encumbers land owned by the debtor (both land they own now and land they may purchase in the future) until the amount owing on the judgment is paid. If the amount owing is not paid within four months, the claimant can direct the enforcement office to seize and sell the land.

Judgment Enforcement and Post-Judgment Interest

Claimants are also entitled to seek “post-judgment interest,” which begins accumulating automatically on the amount owed as of the date the court makes its order. Post-judgment interest continues to grow on the amount owing—meaning, if the debtor makes a partial payment, post-judgment interest will continue to accrue on the remaining balance. 

Post-judgment interest rates are governed by the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43.

Final Thoughts on Judgment Enforcement in Ontario 

Sometimes, getting a judgment is just the beginning for a claimant. If the debtor is unable or unwilling to pay what they owe the claimant, they may need to pursue judgment enforcement to ensure they receive what they are entitled to. However, navigating the judgment enforcement process can be challenging – whether working with the debtor to obtain payment or deciding which judgment enforcement option is right in the claimant’s situation. 

We’ve covered some of the most common judgment enforcement processes above. Still, as each case hinges on its unique circumstances, it’s best to speak with an experienced civil litigation lawyer for assistance with judgment enforcement issues. They will be in the best position to assess your case and determine the best path forward – so you can put your legal case behind you, recoup your judgment, and move on with your life. 

Contact Tierney Stauffer LLP’s Civil Litigation Team in Ottawa for Effective and Experienced Representation 

Navigating a legal case doesn’t have to be hard when you have the right representation. Tierney Stauffer LLP’s civil litigation lawyers pride themselves on a client-focused approach to litigation. Providing practical and honest advice to litigation matters, Tierney Stauffer LLP’s team can represent clients at all levels of court. We have the extensive experience necessary to secure the results our clients need to navigate legal challenges and move forward. For help with your legal matter, call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to speak with an experienced civil litigation lawyer

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