A number of people call me when someone owes them money and they don’t know how to get paid.
If the amount of the total debt is under $25,000 I suggest that people go to the General District Court and file a ‘Warrant in Debt’. This is how you start the process in Virginia. The ‘Warrant in Debt’ is a form that lists the person who owes you the debt, the reason they owe the debt, and the amount of the debt. There is a fee for the filing of this form with the court, and there is a fee to have the form given to the alleged debtor by a Sheriff. You can also use a private process server, but in Virginia having the document served by the Sheriff is less expensive.
And yes, you can add the cost of the fees for the ‘Warrant in Debt’ to the total amount owed.
The ‘Warrant in Debt’ needs to be served on the person who owes you the money and you and the debtor must show up in court on the designated ‘return date’. At the hearing on the ‘return date’, the judge will ask the debtor if he/she agrees that they owe the money. If they say ‘yes’ the judge will enter a judgment for that amount and you now have a legal piece of paper saying they owe you the money.
If they dispute the claim for the money, the judge will set a date for a trial where you need to prove how much is owed and why. They will, of course, try to prove that they don’t owe the money. This trial is in front of the judge and after hearing all of the evidence and testimony from both sides, the judge will make a decision as to whether or not they money is actually owed.
If the debtor does not show up at the hearing, you can ask the judge to enter a ‘judgment’ for the amount you had entered on the form.
If you don’t show up for the hearing, the judge will generally dismiss your case.
Usually, if the debtor shows up at the hearing and disputes the amount, he/she will ask for ‘pleadings’ which include the ‘Bill of Particulars’ that you will need to provide to the debtor with a copy to the court, and a ‘Grounds of Defense’ which will be provided by the debtor to you and to the court. The judge will give you due dates for these documents and you will need to make sure that these documents are received on time or your case can be dismissed.
There are parts of this process that you may be able to do yourself. You can read about why you may need a lawyer here.
If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.