How to Enforce a Judgment in California
Learning how to enforce judgments requires you to hit the ground running so you don't miss an opportunity and you can stay within the regulations
If you are the plaintiff in a legal case, the judge may decide that you are entitled to money damages from the other party. While getting a favorable judgment is the desired outcome, it may be difficult to actually collect from the other party. If you are looking to enforce a judgment in California, there are several steps you can take in order to get the money to which you are legally entitled.
- Contact the Debtor:
The first step in recovering your judgment money is to contact the debtor to make payment arrangements. The debtor can choose to pay all of the money at once, or the two of you can work out a payment agreement. Contact the debtor in writing and keep a copy for your records. If you have to take additional steps to recover the debt, you will need this written documentation. If you and the debtor agree on a payment plan, file a copy of the "stipulation for time payments" with the court.
- Seize the Debtor's Assets:
Thirty days after the court has notified the debtor of the judgment, you may file a request for a levy of the debtor's assets. This will allow you to seize any assets to pay off the debt. You may attach a levy to the debtor's bank account or wages. You can find out this information from the court.
- Suspend the Debtor's Driver's License:
If the defendant was found responsible in an auto-related case, you can ask the judge to suspend his driver's license. If the debt is $750 or more, you can file a Certificate of Facts Re Unsatisfied Judgment with the court. You can then file this with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The result is that the debtor's license will be suspended for 6 years or until the judgment is paid. If the judgment is less than $750, you have to wait 90 days from the date that the notice of judgment is mailed by the court. This method can be an effective way to collect a judgment. It can also backfire if you remove the debtor's means of earning the money to repay the debt.
- Suspend the Debtor's Professional License:
If the debtor holds a professional license like a contractor's license, real estate license or medical license, you can follow steps to have the court suspend their license. As with suspending the driver's license, this can be an effective means of collecting your debt but can also backfire if you cut off the debtor's livelihood.
- Put a Lien on a Building:
If the debtor owns a building, commercial establishment or home, you can ask the court to put a lien on the property. If the lien results in the sale of the property, you can collect the proceeds of the sale. In this case, you do not need to know the exact address of the property or if the debtor is the owner of record. If the property is in the debtor's name, it can be subject to lien.
What NOT to do When Collecting a Debt
While there are several legal remedies to collect monies owed, there are some that are illegal and can land you in legal hot water. You may not harass the debtor. This means that you can't call the debtor multiple times at work or at home. You cannot harass their family members. You cannot call them before 8:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m. to collect on the debt. You cannot hire someone to follow them or harass their employer.
If you are owed a judgment, there are several remedies you can take to collect it. Start your debt collection process today.