In a civil suit, the court will determine if the person being sued actually owes you money. If the court makes a judgment in your favor and orders someone to pay you a certain amount of money, then they have an obligation to pay it. Getting a court judgment, however, does not mean the debtor will pay the money right away. In fact, they may have no intention to pay the amount of the judgment. It may be that the defendant (now called a “judgment debtor,”) truly does not have the money. On the other hand, they might be stubborn, refusing to pay you even though you have a judgment. In either case, the steps you take to collect a money judgment can make the process easier if you do it the right way. On the other hand, you can strengthen the debtor’s case for not paying you if you do it the wrong way.
How to Collect a Money Judgment
What do you do when a debtor refuses to pay you, even after a court decides that they must? Facing how to collect a money judgment can often be more complicated than getting the judgment itself. If you have a foreign judgment from another state, the process is even more difficult. In some situations you may need more help from the court to collect the money. It is possible to have the debtor’s wages garnished. In a garnishment, the court takes a certain percentage of each of the debtor’s paychecks. The deductions will continue from their check until the debt is paid off. You can also have their bank account garnished, in which case, you get whatever monies are in the bank account, up to the amount owed. If the debtor owns real property you can file an Abstract of Judgment which will place a lien on their property. You can even petition the court to have the debtor’s professional license suspended until they pay the debt.
Keep in mind that it may not be an easy process to collect a money judgment. Most California judgments expire after ten years. If you are trying to collect a money judgment, be aware of when the judgment expires. If your judgment is expiring, you may need to renew the judgment to keep your judgment valid.
What Not to Do to Collect Your Judgment
Whatever you do, if you are trying to collect a money judgment, do not harass the debtor. Some harassing acts include:
- Calling after 9:00 p.m.
- Asking third parties for information about them
- Making unannounced visits to the debtor
- Telling third parties that the debtor owes you money.
Instead, be tactful, and offer the debtor opportunities to pay you in installments. You can write letters to the debtor, so there is a written record of your efforts to collect the debt. Remember, however, do not threaten! Keep in mind, when trying to collect a money judgment pushing a debtor to pay you a debt they cannot afford may also cause them to file bankruptcy.
Using A People’s Choice to Collect Your California Judgment
As a registered legal document assistant, A People’s Choice can help you prepare the documents you need to collect your judgment. Our fees are reasonable and much lower what you would have to pay for a lawyer. Contact A People’s Choice about document preparation services if you need to collect a money judgment in California. You can reach us at 805-648-5540.
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