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Some Steps to take to Collect Your Judgment

Posted by attorney Stuart Steingraber

OK, you won your case and the court ordered your opponent to pay you. Now what? A judgment creditor can take the following steps to increase the likelihood of collecting from the judgment debtor:

  1. Get the court to issue an Abstract of Judgment and record it in the county where the debtor may have real estate. Even if you don't know the address of the property, recording the Abstract will create a lien on any property the debtor presently owns, and may create an impediment later when he/she attempts to acquire real estate.

  2. Get an order to conduct a judgment debtor examination. Subpoena the debtor's financial records like bank statements, tax returns, evidence of ownership of vehicles, boats, RV's, motorcycles, etc. If the debtor fails to show up or produce the records, ask the judge to issue a bench warrant to arrest the debtor for "contempt of court" for his failure to appear, not for his failure to pay the debt. If the debtor shows up for the examination, follow the format and list of questions sometimes provided by the court. If your debtor is difficult, you can have the proceedings taken down in writing by a private court reporter (at your expense).

  3. When you obtain information about the debtor's assets, obtain a Writ of Execution from the court directed to the Sheriff in the county where the asset is located, to seize the asset, levy the bank account or other property, or garnish the debtor's wages. The sheriff will charge you fees for what it does ranging from $30 for a wage levy, up to thousands to seize a vehicle, advertise, store, and conduct a sale. All fees paid out for execution costs are added to your judgment balance along with interest cmputed at 10% per year.

  4. Record a Notice of Judgment Lien with the California Secretary of State. This will create a lien on any personal property of the debtor (except property subject to DMV titling such as vehicles, trailers, boats, etc)

If further details and/or help with collecting your judgment are needed, feel free to contact me for a no-obligation consultation about your particular case. Good luck!

Additional resources provided by the author

Forms for debt collection matters are available on most California county court websites under "Judicial Council Forms" and can be downloaded or filled-in on line and printed out. Use the following link to get to the forms you need:

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