Congratulations! You have obtained a civil judgement in California. How exactly do you get your money? This is a common question that clients ask me. Here are some tips.
1. Obtaining the judgement is just the first step
Money judgements are just pieces of paper. For the most part, the court system leaves it up to you to actually collect on the debt that you are owed. Not all debtors, whether individuals or businesses, will voluntarily make good on their debt.
Inaction on your behalf can impact your rights down the road, so I strongly recommend you act aggressively to collect on your judgement as soon as it issued by the court.
2. Judgements are good for 10 years in California
In most cases, your judgement for money damages will only be valid for ten years in California. This means that you need to collect on your judgement in that timeframe.
California law does allow you to renew your judgement prior to the 10-year expiration. Failure to renew the judgement means that it is forever void. Therefore, the first thing you should do when you win a judgement is calendar your 10-year deadline so that you don't forget about it.
Isn't ten years a long time? Yes, but you never know when a debtor may come into assets, purchase a home, or increase their salary.
3. You have various tools to collect on your judgement
If your judgement debtor won't voluntarily make good on their debt, you have some tools to collect on your judgement.
Wage garnishments, bank levies, property liens and till taps are some of the common collection tools that you can utilize as a judgement creditor. Each collection tool is best suited for a particular type of judgement debtor and in most cases you will need to know some basic information about the debtor in order to proceed.
4. A debtor's examination might be necessary
If you want to garnish wages, you need to know where the debtor works. If you want to levy bank accounts, you need to know where the debtor banks. You might not know these details about the debtor, or the debtor may be taking steps to make collection difficult. A debtor's examination will help.
A debtor's examination is a court-ordered examination where you will be given the opportunity to ask the debtor questions about his or her financial affairs. The debtor must answer your questions under oath and under penalty of perjury. You can also subpoena certain financial documents from the debtor.
Proceeding with collection will likely be much easier once you have asked the right questions and obtained the appropriate paperwork directly from the person or entity that owes you money.
What if the debtor doesn't appear at the examination? The court can issue a bench warrant for the debtor's arrest. As you can see, the debtor's examination is a very powerful tool.
5. An attorney might be a good alternative
Chasing a debtor around and around can be tiring and expensive if not done correctly. Some judgement creditors seek out the assistance of an experienced attorney to help speed the process along. Some attorneys will charge a flat rate or some may help collect your debt on a contingency (where the attorney takes a percentage of funds recovered on your behalf).
Are you having trouble collection on a money judgement in California? Please call my office at (916) 333-2222 to discuss how I can assist you collect the money that you are owed.