Enforcement and Collection of California Money Judgments

It has been said many times that a civil money judgment is worth no more than the paper it is printed on.  This is alarming to many people new to the civil court system.  Obtaining a court judgment against a debtor takes a lot of time and effort, but it is only the first step.  Enforcement of the judgment and collection of the debt owed can sometimes be the more difficult task.  Below is a sampling of commonly-used enforcement tools that Griswold Law employs in order to collect debts on behalf of its clients.  The information below is a discussion of potentially available options and is not meant to be relied upon or considered legal advice.  Please consult with an attorney if you are seeking formal legal advice related to a particular factual situation.

Informal Settlement:

The initial hope is that the debtor cares about his/her credit rating and therefore has an interest in clearing the judgment from their credit report.  That being said, a telephone call or letter (if contact information is initially available) is the first step.  If the client approves, an installment payment plan can be arranged with the debtor.  Exercising one or more of the tools described below many times motivates the debtor to reassess their initial decision not to reach an informal settlement of the debt.

Asset Search:

If a settlement appears unlikely, we must determine the scope of assets owned by the debtor.  Once this investigation is completed, we can best determine what enforcement tools will be available for collection purposes.  If need be, an investigator can be hired.

Lien on Personal Property:

This is a great tool when collecting a debt from a business.  The judgment lien is filed against the debtor's business property and can potentially make it very difficult for the debtor's business to obtain credit in the future.  This tool allows for the lien to be placed on accounts receivable, chattel paper, equipment, farm products, inventory and various forms of negotiable title documents.

Abstract of Judgment (Lien on Real Property):

An abstract of judgment is filed within the county in which the debtor owns real property.  This creates a lien on the real property in that county.  A thorough asset search will allow us to uncover all counties in which the debtor owns real property.  The debtor will be forced to address the lien if attempting to refinance or sell the property.

Writ of Execution:

The issuance of this writ acts as direction to the Sheriff in carrying out certain enforcement tools described below.

Wage Garnishment:

Pursuant to the writ of execution, the Sheriff will direct the debtor's employer to withhold as much as 25% of the debtor's net pay from the debtor's pay check (can be up to 50% for child or spousal support).  A wage garnishment is also referred to as a "earnings withhold order."

Bank Account Levy:

Pursuant to the writ of execution, the Sheriff will direct the bank branch that manages the debtor's bank account to "freeze" one or more of the accounts.

There are other enforcement tools available in California.  The above list is merely a sampling of commonly-used tools.

Civil judgments generally expire after 10 years from the date they become final, unless they are renewed.  It is important to consult with an attorney immediately if you are seeking to enforce a judgment and are unsure if the judgment has expired.

For a free consultation to discuss enforcing a judgment in California, please contact Griswold Law at (858) 481-1300 or

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