You can start collecting your judgment right away as long as:
Here are some initial steps you can take:
Do not use illegal ways to collect your money
The person who owes you money (your former spouse/partner — the debtor) may be protected from abusive or unfair ways to collect the debt. And generally, it is not a good idea for you to use unfair or deceitful tactics to get the money the owed you.
In your efforts to collect the debt, you should NOT:
Getting Your Former Spouse or Domestic Partner to Pay You Voluntarily
There are several ways you can encourage your former spouse/partner (the debtor) to pay you voluntarily.
Write a letter to show your former spouse/partner that it is in his or her best interest to pay the judgment as soon as possible.
In your letter, you can say that if your former spouse/partner does not pay:
Sometimes debtors honestly believe they do not have any way to pay this debt.
Encourage your former spouse/partner to consider sources of assets like:
Sometimes, being flexible will pay off.
Here are some ideas:
If there was domestic violence in your relationship, some of these suggestions may not be appropriate for you. Talk to a family law facilitator or a domestic violence counselor if you are not sure what to do.
If you decide to accept installment payments, write a letter to the debtor. Explain how the judgment will be paid. Include payment of interest and costs, if any.
Collecting Your Judgment When Your Former Spouse or Domestic Partner Will Not Pay You
If, after trying to resolve the problem amicably, your former spouse/partner (the debtor) still fails to pay you the court-ordered amount, you can take a number of legal steps. Click on the topic below for more information:
Before you go any further, you should first find out if your former spouse/partner has any assets that you can go after in order to get the money he or she owes you.
Once there is a judgment, the creditor can ask that the debtor appear in court to answer questions under oath regarding his or her financial status and asset information. The creditor 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. You will have to pay a fee to the process server or the sheriff/marshal to serve your papers for you.
Before you hire someone to do it, ask him or her how much the fee will be and what services the fee includes.
If the debtor does not show up at the hearing, the court may issue a bench warrant for his or her 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.
Once you know what assets the debtor has, you can take the necessary steps to try to collect from those assets.Putting a lien on the debtor’s real property
Prepare an Abstract of Judgment — Civil and Small Claims (Form EJ-001). All the required information must be included or the lien will not be valid.
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.
Collecting from the debtor’s wages
If your former spouse/partner is employed, you can get an Earnings Withholding Order to garnish his or her wages until you are paid. You have the right to collect up to 25 percent of the amount over the federal minimum wage that he or she earns (as long as it is not exempt under other rules).
Your former spouse/partner has 10 days to file a Claim of Exemption (Form WG-006). If he or she does file this claim, you have the right to oppose it. Learn about claims of exemption for wage garnishments, including steps to oppose a claim of exemption.
Collecting money from the debtor’s bank account
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.
Your former spouse/partner has 10 days to oppose the bank levy before the sheriff sends the money to you. He or she has to file a Claim of Exemption (Form EJ-160). If he or she does file this claim, you have the right to oppose it. The court may have a hearing to decide whether to turn all or some of the money over to you as the creditor or let your former spouse/partner (the judgment debtor) keep it. Lean about claims of exemption for nonwage garnishments, including how to oppose a claim of exemption.
Putting a lien on the debtor’s personal property
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 car. 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 car 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)
When a court issues a Writ of Execution (Money Judgment), the court directs the sheriff or marshal to enforce the money judgment in the county where the assets are located.
Getting a writ of execution 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.
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 or your family law facilitator to find out how your court handles this process.
A claim of exemption is a process that a judgment debtor follows where he or she claims that certain property (like wages, bank accounts, or other property) is exempt under the law and, therefore, cannot be taken by the judgment creditor to pay a money judgment.
When the judgment creditor tries to garnish the wages of a judgment debtor, the debtor can try to file a claim of exemption for the wage garnishment. The judgment creditor then has the right to oppose the claim of exemption.
When the judgment creditor tries to put a levy on the property of the judgment debtor or tries to garnish something other than wages, the debtor can file a claim of exemption for the levy or nonwage garnishment. The judgment creditor then has the right to oppose the claim of exemption.
A Claim of Exemption is a form a debtor files with the levying officer (like the sheriff or marshal) explaining why the wages that the creditor wants the debtor’s employer to garnish (take) should be exempt (excluded). There are laws and rules that say which types of incomes or property are exempt. You can read many of these exemptions in Exemptions From the Enforcement of Judgments (Form EJ-155) and find out the current amounts of exemptions by reading Current Dollar Amounts of Exemptions From Enforcement of Judgments .
To file a Claim of Exemption for a wage garnishment
Within 10 days of receiving a copy of the wage garnishment:
Within 10 days of receiving a copy of the Claim of Exemption:
Claims of Exemption for a Levy or Other Nonwage Garnishment
A Claim of Exemption is a form a debtor files with the levying officer (like the sheriff or marshal) explaining why the property or money that the creditor wants to take should be exempt (excluded). There are laws and rules that say which types of incomes or property are exempt. You can read many of these exemptions in Exemptions From the Enforcement of Judgments (Form EJ-155) and find out the current amounts of exemptions by reading Current Dollar Amounts of Exemptions From Enforcement of Judgments .
To file a Claim of Exemption for a levy or other nongarnishment
Within 10 days of receiving the Notice of Levy:
Within 10 days of receiving a copy of the claim of exemption:
A family law money judgment will last until paid in full or satisfied in some other way. Unlike other money judgments (where the person who is owed the money has to renew the judgment every 10 years), family law money judgments do NOT expire. So you do not have to file a request for renewal of the judgment. Your court order will be valid until paid in full.
Money judgments accumulate interest at the legal rate of 10% per year. The interest accumulates daily. So, for example, if you have a judgment for $10,000 and you get no payments for the first year, the interest that would accumulate would be $1,000 after 1 year, or $2.74 per day.
In some cases, you may decide to renew your judgment. The reason to do this is that when you renew a judgment, you update the amount that you are owed to add the accumulated interest and costs you have incurred since the judgment was entered, plus show credit for any partial payments that have been made.
All the interest, costs, plus the unpaid principal are added together, and it becomes the new principal. This means that the accumulated interest and costs become part of the principal, and future interest will accumulate on a higher amount and will be higher.
For example: if you have a judgment for $10,000, the yearly interest would be $1,000. After 9 years, you would be owed $10,000 plus $9,000 if you had not received any payments along the way. If you do not renew your judgment, there will continue to be $1,000 in interest added yearly. But if you renew after 9 years, the new principal becomes $19,000, which means that the yearly interest, after renewal, would be $1,900 ($900 more per year than if you had not renewed the judgment).
To renew the judgment
If you want to renew your judgment, file a form called Application for and Renewal of Judgment (Form EJ-190). You will have to pay a fee. If you decide to actually renew your judgment, you have to file before the first 10 years are up. You cannot enforce the renewed judgment until you serve your former spouse/partner with a form called Notice of Renewal of Judgment (Form EJ-195). Your former spouse/partner then has 30 days from the day he or she is served with the notice to file a motion to vacate or modify the renewal.