Collect Your Judgment
If you win your case, the money the court awards you is called the judgment. You are the Judgment Creditor. The person who owes you money is the Judgment Debtor.
The Judgment Debtor has 30 days to pay you the money, file an Appeal, or, if they did not appear, file a Motion to Vacate Judgment.
How do I collect my money?
If the Judgment Debtor does not pay you within 30 days, there are ways the Sheriff can help you collect your money.
To collect money, you must first get a Writ of Execution. A Writ of Execution is an order from the court to the Sheriff that allows the Sheriff to collect money owed to you. You get a Writ of Execution at the court clerk’s office. Here are some ways the Sheriff can help collect your money:
If you know where the Judgment Debtor banks, you can ask the Sheriff to collect money from their account.
If you know where the Judgment Debtor works, the Sheriff can collect 25% of the debtor’s wages each month until your judgment is paid in full.
If the Judgment Debtor is a business and uses a cash register, you can instruct the Sheriff to do a till tap. This lets the Sheriff make a single trip to the business and take all cash and checks from the cash register. You can also request a keeper.
This lets the Sheriff stay at the business location for eight hours or more and collect all cash and checks received that day.
There are fees for all of these services.
How can I find out where the Judgment Debtor works or banks?
You can request a Judgment Debtor Hearing. (See Judgment Debtor Hearing.)
What else can I do to collect?
Here are three other ways you can put pressure on the Debtor to pay your judgment.
Place a lien on property. If the Judgment Debtor owns real estate, you can place a lien on their property. If you do this, the Judgment Debtor will not be able to sell or refinance that property without paying you first. To do this, fill out an Abstract of Judgment form and take it to the clerk’s office. After the clerk stamps it, record it at the County Recorder’s Office in the county where the property is located.
Suspend the debtor’s driver license. If your judgment involves an automobile accident, the Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend the Judgment Debtor’s driver license until payment is made. See Suspend Driver License.
Place a lien on a business. If your judgment is against a business, you can record a lien with the Secretary of State’s office. To do this, fill out a Notice of Judgment Lien on Personal Property form. Serve a copy of this form on the Judgment Debtor by first-class mail and complete a Proof of Service form. Send the original form, a copy, and the Proof of Service to the Secretary of States office at:
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 942835
Sacramento, CA 94235
Enclose a $10.00 check made out to the “Secretary of State”. The fee is $20 if the document is three pages or more .
Can I add collection costs and interest to my judgment?
Yes. You can add your collection costs plus 10% interest per year onto your judgment.
To do this, you need to file the form called, Memorandum of Costs After Judgment, Acknowledgment of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest at the clerk’s office. You have two years from the date you paid to add collection costs to your judgment. You can add interest anytime prior to collection. (See Add Collection Costs & Interest to Your Judgment.)
How long do I have to collect?
You have ten years from the date the judgment was issued to collect your money. If you cannot collect within 10 years, you can renew the judgment for another ten years by filing the forms called Application For And Renewal of Judgment and Notice of Renewal of Judgment. You must file these forms with the clerk before the end of the 10-year period. Be sure to send a copy of each form to the Judgment Debtor and file a Proof of Service with the court.
Court forms are available here and at California Courts – Forms. Select “Small Claims” from the pull down menu. Forms are also available at the Court Clerk’s office.
Contact us for more information or speak with one of our counselors at (800) 593-8222. If you live outside of Southern California, call us at (213) 974-9759.