Before you go any further, you should first find out if the debtor has any assets that you can go after in order to get the money the debtor owes you.
Once there is a judgment, you can ask that the debtor appear in court to answer questions under oath regarding his or her financial status and asset information. You can then use this information to start legal collection procedures.
To do this, fill out and file an Application and Order for Appearance and Examination (Form EJ-125). There are some restrictions for filing this application, so make sure you read the form carefully. Once you file this form, you will get a court hearing and you will have to have a registered process server or the sheriff/marshal serve a copy of the Application and Order for Appearance and Examination on the debtor.
If the debtor does not show up at the hearing, the court may issue a bench warrant for the debtor’s arrest. If the debtor shows up, you will have the chance to ask him or her questions about where he or she works and what bank accounts, property, belongings, stocks, or any other assets the debtor may have.
During the examination, you can ask the debtor:
You should come to the hearing with a list of questions to ask the debtor. (Look at Sample Questions to Ask a Debtor.) The debtor will be put under oath, but in most counties you will ask the questions yourself. The questioning will probably occur outside the presence of the court commissioner or judge. Before the hearing, you should also serve the debtor with a subpoena for any documents you need to see.
If the debtor is employed, you can get an Earnings Withholding Order to garnish the debtor’s wages until you are paid. You have the right to collect up to 25% of the amount over the federal minimum wage that the debtor earns (as long as it is not exempt under other rules). This only works if the other person is employed by someone else. A wage garnishment does not work against someone who is self-employed.
The debtor has 10 days to file a Claim of Exemption (Form WG-006). If the debtor does file this claim, you have the right to oppose it. Learn more about wage garnishments and filing or opposing a Claim of Exemption.
You can get a levy on the debtor’s bank account. You will need to know the branch where the account is kept, and, usually, you also have to know the account number.
The judgment debtor has 10 days to oppose the bank levy before the sheriff sends the money to the creditor. The debtor has to file a Claim of Exemption (Form EJ-160). If they do, you have the right to oppose it. The court then may have a hearing to decide whether to turn all or some of the money over to you as the creditor or let the judgment debtor keep it. Learn more about non-wage garnishments and other levies and filing and opposing a Claim of Exemption.
If you win and there is no stay, you can file a lien on the other person’s property. This can convert the judgment from an unsecured debt to a secured debt. This way when the defendant tries to sell or refinance his or her home, you can get paid your judgment plus accrued interest from the escrow. If you choose not to wait for the defendant to sell or refinance the property, you can look into “foreclosing” on the judgment lien. This means that you force the other person to sell the property and pay you with that money. This only works when there is enough equity in the property to pay all the liens as well as the costs of foreclosure.
Some county assessors will confirm if a debtor owns real property over the phone, or you may be able to find that information online at the county assessor’s website. Click to find your county tax assessor.
You can have the sheriff take the debtor’s personal property and sell it at public auction to pay the debt. But, often, the cost of doing this is more than the value of the property, so make sure that the property you want the sheriff to take and sell will be worth all the effort and money.
One of the items of personal property you can put a lien on is the debtor’s vehicle. After you put the lien, the sheriff would seize the car and sell it. This process is fairly expensive. Also, there often is not enough value, if any, left in the vehicle to pay very much of the judgment.
But if you decide you would like to do this, follow these steps:
Getting a Writ of Execution (Money Judgment) may be a required first step in enforcing your money judgment and is the most common method of reaching a judgment debtor’s interest in real and personal property.
When a court issues a Writ of Execution, the court directs the sheriff or marshal to enforce the money judgment in the county where the assets are located.
To ask the court to issue a writ, you will have to prepare the Writ of Execution (Form EJ-130) and an affidavit supporting the writ of execution, where you explain why you need this writ of execution to collect on your judgment.
Courts may deal with writs of execution differently:
Talk to the clerk at your local court to find out how your court handles this process.