Money Judgment Enforcement

Whether it's a small debt owed to a bank or the kind of debts that can arise from any court matters, a judgment is a pretty effective way of learning more about the debtor, putting their debt on the public record, and opening new avenues of enforcement and collection of money judgments that can be financially beneficial over time. Judgments do vary a great deal from more typical collections, however, and it is worth understanding the unique nature and methods of enforcement that are associated with this common procedure for monetary recovery.

The Court Judgment: What is It, and Why Pursue One?

When a creditor or third-party, including credit card companies, lending institutions, landlords, or business partners, has been unable to collect a debt from a third party, they'll often pursue a court judgment to try and force the matter a bit more quickly. Court judgments are typically considered to be small claims or civil matters, proceeding through lower courts or through mediation processes in order to reach an agreed outcome. But here at we specialize in collecting judgments worth $25,000 and more!

The result of these proceedings is a legal document that states the amount of money owed to the creditor by the debtor, as well as the debtor's acknowledgment of that amount and a list of the debtor's current assets. This document serves as a blueprint for enforcement, which is essentially a period of active collection that can begin as soon as 30 days after the judgment itself is placed on the record.

Enforcement: When it Begins and How it Proceeds

According to California law, there must be a 30-day window of time between when the judgment is issued and when active judgment enforcement can begin in an effort to collect the full amount of the debt. During this window of time, several things occur:

  • The debtor receives, completes, and returns a legal document declaring their assets, many of which can be seized in an effort to reclaim the balance of the judgment.
  • The debtor has the opportunity to satisfy the judgment by paying it in full.
  • Debtors who were not properly served, or who did not show up in court, can file to vacate a judgment either with or without payment.

At the end of the 30-day window between the recording of the judgment and active enforcement, third parties can begin seeking remedies to the judgment in order to satisfy the remaining balance, if any. Generally, there are a few steps that must be taken during enforcement of this judgment:

  1. Third parties should make a good-faith effort to get in touch with the debtor to arrange for payment, either as a flat sum or as a series of installments.
  2. Failing contact with the debtor, or if they refuse to cooperate, the party holding the judgment can begin to seize any of the debtor's assets that they have personal knowledge of. This includes assets listed on the debtor's Statement of Assets form, filed with the court immediately after the initial outcome of the case.
  3. If the debtor lists no assets, or if their known assets are not sufficient to satisfy the debt, it's possible to examine the debtor in court to determine whether or not they have hidden assets that can be used for full satisfaction.
  4. For judgments pertaining to an automobile accident, it's possible to seek a suspension of a non-paying debtor's driver's license. If the debt is one relating to licensed, professional services, it's possible to request suspension of those licenses instead.
  5. The debtor's residence, owned land, or any other owned buildings, can have a lien placed against them in order to ensure satisfaction of the debt.

Beware Exemptions that Complicate Enforcement

Many assets, including things like a primary automobile, washer and dryer, and other items deemed essential to the debtor's livelihood, cannot be seized in order to satisfy a debt. Because seizing assets typically requires court action, those reviewing a request to seize assets will generally approve or deny items based on their utility and perceived implications on a debtor's wellbeing.

With these restrictions in mind, and a thorough understanding of the process, it's easy to seize the right assets and take the right actions for full satisfaction of the debt. When in doubt, it's always a good idea to seek the counsel of legal professionals who can provide more insight about judgments, enforcement, and similar actions.

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