Enforce Judgment

You have won your court case in California, and somebody owns you money or property. That makes you the judgment creditor. That makes the loser the judgment debtor. You are satisfied that you've been given what is rightfully yours. There's one problem, however. How are you going to get it? The court is not going to collect a judgment for you. The debtor probably is not too anxious to hand over money or assets. The judgment is in your favor, but now what?

After a judgment has been decided at trial, a 30-day period follows during which the debtor has certain options after the court decision. The debtor may pay the authorized amount in full to the court. If the doctor intends to comply with the decision but cannot afford to pay in full, he or she may agree to payment installments. The debtor may also appeal the decision. In addition, the debtor may do nothing at all. In that case, your next step is to get in touch with him or her, preferably by letter. You can agree to a payment plan, which is signed by both parties and sent to the court. If you can't agree, you can each file a payment plan with the court.

Depending upon how much opposition you receive from the judgment debtor, there are various forms that may be served, such as the Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets. It must be served on the debtor by a sheriff or licensed process server. If the debtor lives more than 150 miles from the court where you won your case, the hearing will be conducted where the debtor lives. The debtor must pay you at this point or attend the hearing.

If the debtor still does not comply with paying what the court has decided, a bench warrant may be awarded for his or her arrest. However, you as the creditor, have the responsibility to make sure the warrant gets to the sheriff, who will enforce it. To do that, you must complete various forms, which will be issued and explained by the court, and submit them, plus the necessary fees, to the sheriff.

After all the forms have been filed and there is still no compliance from the debtor, you may be eligible to seize the debtor's assets with a Writ of Execution, for which there is also a fee. Seizing the debtor's assets may be accomplished by:

  • taking personal property, such as money from the debtor's bank account, or selling personal property, such as a car, and taking the money
  • taking money from the debtor's business, such as emptying the cash register
  • using a "keeper," someone put in the debtor's business to collect money until the amount is paid
  • selling land or buildings owned by the debtor

When the debt has been paid in full, or if the parties agree to a lesser amount, which sometimes happens, you as the creditor must sign the Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment and file it with the small claims court. It is in a sense a receipt that you have received the awarded amount of money or property. At last, the case is closed.

Recover your judgment now!

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