Enforcement of debt judgments.

Getting a judgment means that the creditor is now entitled to use various mechanisms to get the money back. This is known as enforcing a judgment – the legal term is execution of the judgment. There are several different ways of enforcing a judgment. The creditor chooses the means and can use several different means at the same time.

Creditors have 12 years from the date of the judgment to look for enforcement orders. However, if the judgment order was issued 6 or more years earlier, the creditor may have to apply to court for leave to issue execution. Once issued, enforcement orders are generally valid for a year and may then be renewed.

Registration of the judgment

A creditor can register a judgment in the Central Office of the High Court. Judgments from the District Court, the Circuit Court and the High Court may all be registered. Registering the judgment does not directly enforce the judgment. It does, however, publicise the fact that there is a judgment against you and, as a result, means that you are unlikely to be able to borrow further.

Lists of judgments are published by credit reference agencies (for example, in Stubbs Gazette and some newspapers).

Before registering a judgment, the creditor must inform the debtor that it is intended to register and give them an opportunity to pay the debt.

Execution against goods

Execution against goods is one of the main ways of enforcing a judgment. It is sometimes called distress against goods. It means that the creditor gets an order from the court which directs the Sheriff or County Registrar to seize goods and sell them in order to raise the amount of money which is owed plus costs.

In the case of a High Court judgment, the order directing the seizure goods is known as an order of fieri facias or fifa, in the case of a Circuit Court judgment, the order is known as an execution order against goods and in the case of the enforcement of a District Court judgment, the court’s judgment or decree itself is sent to the Sheriff or County Registrar for execution

Instalment orders

Instalment orders are governed by the Enforcement of Court Orders Acts 1926 - 2009 and Order 53 of the District Court Rules.

A creditor can apply to the District Court in the district in which a debtor live to have the debtor attend the court in order to establish their means. The judge may then order payment in full or payment in instalments, taking account of your means.

Failure to meet instalment order

If the debtor fails to pay the instalment order, the creditor may look for a committal order which would commit the debtor to prison.

The process involves a summons to appear at the District Court. This is issued by the District Court clerk at the request of the creditor.

The creditor is obliged to establish, beyond reasonable doubt, that the debtor have means but that the debtor is wilfully refusing to pay.

The court has the power to grant you legal aid in accordance with the rules governing the criminal legal aid scheme.

Attachment of earnings

At present, attachment of earnings is used only for orders of maintenance of spouses and children.

Judgment mortgage

The creditor may register a charge against property owned by a debtor. A Debtor will have to pay off the judgment mortgage when the property is sold.

Attachment of a debt/Garnishee

If a debtor owe money to a creditor and another person owes money to a debtor, then the creditor can get an order which attaches the debt owed to a debtor by the other person. This is known as a garnishee order. Generally, it is used only in cases where there are no goods to be seized to satisfy the judgment.

Appointment of a receiver

A receiver may be appointed over some of your assets or over future income such as rents, income of a trust fund or a pension. The law in this area is complex but it seems that a receiver cannot be appointed over future earnings.


If the debtor is unable to pay their debts, they may petition the High Court to be declared bankrupt. Alternatively, the creditor may apply to have the debtor declared bankrupt if certain conditions are met.