Comprehensive Guide to Enforcing a Judgment
Comprehensive Guide to Enforcing a Judgment – Sacramento Attorneys
Once a party has been successful in a lawsuit, they’ll receive a judgment. A judgment is a piece of paper entitling the person or entity to a monetary award. Obtaining a judgment is not very helpful if the party cannot collect any money on that judgment. This blog is meant to be a helpful guide on how a Creditor may enforce a judgment against a Debtor and thereby actually obtain the monetary award the Creditor deserves.
Locating the Debtor
The first step in collecting on a judgment is locating the Debtor. There are several methods of finding an individual’s address, here are just a few:
- Googling the Debtor’s name is always a good first option.
- Check the phonebook and other online phone listings.
- Check the last known home address.
- Contact the Debtor’s last employer, relatives, and friends to determine their address.
- Check the Sacramento County Tax Assessor’s records. Here is Sacramento’s website and their address is 3701 Power Inn Rd, Suite 3000, Sacramento, CA 95826-4329.
- Retain a private investigator. Our Sacramento litigation law firm uses an individual that charges $100.00 for a comprehensive background check which provides phone numbers, addresses, known acquaintances, and much more.
A party holding a judgment may request an Order for Appearance and Examination. This Order to Appear is to “furnish information to aid in enforcement of a money judgment; answer concerning property of the judgment debtor in possession or control or concerning a debt you owe the judgment debtor; answer concerning property of the defendant in your possession or concerning a debt you owe the defendant that is subject to attachment. Essentially the Order to Appear is a hearing to determine the Debtor’s assets. The Creditor may ask questions relating to, among others, the debtor’s personal financial assets. The hearing is set by the Creditor and must be scheduled at least 45 days before the hearing. The filing fee is $60.00.
What if the Debtor doesn’t show up?
A civil bench warrant may be issued by the court. The Creditor will then pay the filing fees and provide the original warrant to the Sheriff’s Office. Once the bench warrant is served, another hearing will be rescheduled with the Creditor where the Debtor can conduct the examination hearing.
Order for Appearance and Examination Forms and Information
Form EJ-125 – Application and Order for Appearance and Examination. Sacramento County Court – Civil Orders of Examination – Sacramento’s dedicated webpage for Orders of Examination. This page includes forms and a guide to filing the paperwork. Civil Bench Warrant Local Forms – Sacramento County Civil Bench Warrant.
Initiating most collections will first require a Writ of Execution. This form may be found on the California Courts website: Writ of Execution. If you intend on requesting additional monies, such as filing fees and levying fees, you will need to file a Memorandum of Costs after Judgment with the Writ. This form is also available on the California Courts website: Memorandum of Costs after Judgment. The filing fees for a Writ of Execution are currently $25.00.
The most effective way of enforcing a judgment is through garnishing wages. A Creditor may garnish up to twenty-five (25%) percent of the amount owed over the federal minimum wage that the Debtor earns. This action usually will prompt a quicker payment of the amount owed or the Creditor will at least be collecting bi-weekly checks. Worse case scenario, the Debtor may file bankruptcy and the Creditor could lose their rights. To initiate a wage garnishment, the Creditor will need to file an Application for Earnings Withholding Order. This form is available on the California Courts website: Application for Earnings Withholding Order. Moreover, you’ll need to complete a Confidential Statement of Judgment Debtor’s Social Security Number. This form is also available on the California Courts website: Confidential Statement of Judgment Debtor’s Social Security Number. All three documents must be filed with the Sheriff: Writ of Execution, Application for Earnings Withholding Order, and Confidential Statement of Judgment Debtor’s Social Security Number. The filing fee with the Sheriff’s Office is currently $30.00. The Sheriff’s Office will then serve all three documents on the employer, including two additional documents: Employer’s Return and Employee Instructions. The Creditor should contact the Sheriff’s Office to ensure they will prepare those two forms. Alternatively, the Creditor can obtain these forms on the California Courts Website: Employer’s Return and Employee Instructions. A Debtor might file an “objection” to the Wage Garnishment by filing a “Claim of Exemption.” If the Debtor “objects”, the Creditor will receive a Claim of Exemption, Notice of Filing of Claim of Exemption, and Claim of Exemption, and Financial Statement. The Creditor will have limited time to respond to the “objection”; hence, time is of the essence. The Creditor will have ten (10) calendar days to file a Notice of Opposition to Claim of Exemption. This form is available on the California Courts website: Notice of Opposition to Claim of Exemption. Timing is also an issue and it’s important for the Debtor and Creditor to understand the rules for scheduling hearings in these matters. There are several local rules that should be reviewed when serving notices and documents. Take the time to understand these rules and everything will move smoothly. Here are Sacramento Local Rules and California Rules of Court.
Once the Creditor has obtained information on the Debtor’s bank account, either through an Examination discussed above or a private investigator, the Creditor may then begin the process of levying a bank account. The first step, as described above, is obtaining a Writ of Execution. In special circumstances, the Creditor will need additional documents, such as a spousal affidavit or a fictitious business name statement. In Sacramento, the Creditor will need to prepare the Sheriff’s Instructions. This document describes the actions the Creditor is requesting the Sheriff to perform. Here is Sacramento Sheriff’s Instruction Form. The Creditor will need to include the bank and account number. California requires larger banks to list a particular branch that will accept service specifically for bank levies. This website lists out those banks and their branches. If the bank is outside of Sacramento, the Creditor will need to retain a process server or a sheriff in the appropriate county. The Debtor will have ten (10) days from service to claim the funds in their bank account are exempt. The Debtor will claim this exemption on Claim for Exemption form and file it with the Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff will mail a copy of the Debtor’s claim for exemption and the Debtor’s Financial Statement to the Creditor. The Creditor will then need to determine whether to challenge the Debtor’s claim for exemption. Challenging a claim for exemption is outside the scope of this guide, but interested readers are welcome to contact our law office for assistance. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Civil Bureau is located at 3341 Power Inn Road #313, Sacramento, CA 95826.
Lien on Real Property
Placing a lien on real property is another great option to collecting on a judgment. If the Debtor sells the real property, the Creditor will be entitled to payment from the proceeds. If there is equity in the real property after paying other priority claims, the Creditor may foreclose on the real property. Even without taking any action, having a lien on the real property may help persuade the Debtor to issue payments.
The first step in placing a lien on real property is to obtain a certified Abstract of Judgment. The Creditor will need to complete this form and file it with the court. The filing fee is currently $25.00. Once the creditor has received the certified copy of the abstract of judgment, the Creditor will need to file it with the local County Recorder’s Office. The Sacramento County Recorder’s Office is located at 600 8th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. The current fees to file the certified copy are approximately $30.00.
Other Enforcement Opportunities
This guide is meant to cover the most common enforcement tactics for individuals. For judgments against businesses, there are other options like a “till tap” or a “keeper”. A till tap sends a sheriff into the business to take all of the money on the premises. A “keeper” sends a sheriff there for a certain number of hours to stand by the cash register and collect all funds that come into the business.
Other enforcement options for example include placing a lien on personal property, a lien on a lawsuit involving the debtor, and suspending the debtor’s professional license.
Once the judgment is satisfied, the Creditor will need to file documents informing the Courts. Additionally, a Creditor will need to “renew” judgments regularly with the Courts; otherwise, the Creditor may lose their rights to collect.
Contact Sacramento’s Business Attorneys
If you’re having difficulty collecting on a judgment, feel free to contact Sacramento’s Attorneys to set up an initial consultation.
By: Trevor Carson Google+
*The information provided in this post does not constitute legal advice or opinion. The information is for guidance purposes only. Individual situations vary and you should contact us for a consultation. Sacramento Attorneys Enforcing a Judgment. Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and 1shots / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Judgment Enforcement Resources