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1/23/2011 3:42:43 PM

I probably get five calls a day asking to explain what options clients have after they win their Small Claims Judgment. It has been said before that "getting the Judgment is often the easy part, it's collecting that is difficult". I am also not the first to state that almost 80% of Small Claims Judgments go uncollected. This does not mean that you should not try. We at have been collecting and/or assisting our clients with Post Judgment collection for over 15 years. Check out the options below. We did not list all Post Judgment remedies; only the ones that are more practical for collecting Small Claims Judgments. If you still have questions, don't hesitate to call or write me.


Carl Vesper

Post Judgment Methods
Options to Collect Once you obtain Judgment

Bank Levy/Wage Garnishment

I have always argued that the best method of collection is the Bank Levy, followed closely by the Wage Garnishment. Why?
Simply because you will collect your Judgment quicker. If you happen to levy on the judgment debtor's financial institution (garnishee) when the account has enough to satisfy your judgment, you may ultimately get your entire Judgment in one check. You also may receive a portion of your judgment (it all depends on what is in the account at the time the financial institution is served). I wrote "may" because the Debtor does have the option of filing for a Claim of Exemption. I'll try not to clutter this article with too many "may happens". As Private Process Servers, can assist with all of the paperwork and ultimately serve the financial institution and/or place of employment. No, you don't have to be a Sheriff to serve Bank Levies and/or Wage Garnishments.

You should know that as judgment creditors you are able to levy on a bank account and levy wages at the same time. In addition, you are not limited to one bank or one wage garnishment. If a judgment debtor has funds in more than one institution, we can serve all at the same time. If the judgment debtor works two jobs, both can be garnished. Furthermore, if we levy a bank today, we can levy again the next day, next week, next month.

Judgment Creditors are not limited to one method or the other. As long as you have not yet collected the full judgment, one can levy on a bank, garnish wages and utilize the other methods discussed later in this article.

You also should know that the advantage of utilizing a Private Process Server is that we can (or you can) monitor the daily balance in the account. When the account has a sufficient amount to satisfy, or partially satisfy, your judgment, we can serve the bank that day. If the Sheriff processes your levy, you have no idea when they will serve. In addition, can give you statuses at any time. The Sheriff is not equipped to give statuses.

But let's not put the cart before the horse. The pre-requisite for both the Bank Levy or Wage Garnishment is that you either know where the Judgment Debtor banks or where he/she is employed. Many of our clients are unaware that if you have ever paid the judgment debtor with a check, than you very well may know where they bank by simply looking at the back of the processed check. Before levying you would need to verify that the account is still good. Similarly, if you believe you know where the Judgment Debtor works, you must verify if he/she is currently employed. does offer searches for both open depository accounts and/or place of employment searches.

Just a note about when you actually receive the funds for both the Bank Levy and the Wage Garnishment. I always advise my clients to be patient. There is process that the banks/employers and Sheriffs must adhere to.

The bank has ten (10) days to return the Memorandum of Garnishee to the Sheriff after the levy is served. This document tells the Sheriff what the bank is holding on behalf of the Judgment Creditor. In turn, the Sheriff will send the judgment creditor a copy of this document. Similarly, the employer has 15 days to return the Employers Return to the Sheriff's Office. Once the Sheriff receives a check from the bank or employer they hold it for 20 days before
The Judgment Debtor has to be given time to file a Claim of Exemption. I won't get into the mechanics of what options the Judgment Creditor has in responding to the Claim of Exemption. Just know that you can file for a Claim of Exemption hearing where a Judge will hear the Judgment Debtors' reasons for the exemption.
You will start to receive payments as a result of a Wage Garnishment in approximately the same time You will receive payments that represent a percentage of the Judgment Debtors' wages. If the Judgment Debtor quits or gets fired, the payments stop.

Judgment Debtor Examination

The Judgment Debtor Examination is a very good post judgment technique when you do not already have knowledge of the judgment debtor's assets (bank account, employment, real property,etc). The Judgment Debtor Examination also known as Application and Order for Appearance and Examination requires the judgment debtor to appear in court and answer questions regarding his or her assets. Some of our clients also add a Civil Subpoena Duces Tecum, which requires the judgment debtor to bring certain items to the hearing. Common items that are requested are: copies of tax returns, copies of bank statements, deeds of trust).

The Judgment Debtor Examination is filed at the court at which your Small Claims hearing was held. The court fee is $25.00. The Judgment Debtor Examination must be personally served and must be served no later than 10 days before the hearing. You should also know that this document is typically more difficult to serve. First, because it must be personally served. Second, since the judgment debtor has already been served with the Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go To Small Claims Court, he or she may be more evasive.

Service of this order creates a lien on the personal property of the judgment debtor for a period of one year from the date of the order unless extended or sooner terminated by the court.

Finally, since the Judgment Debtor Examination is an Order from the court, there are ramifications for not showing up to the hearing. I'll quote the Code of Civil Procedure "If you (judgment debtor) fail to appear at the time and date and place specified in this order, you may be subject to arrest and punishment for contempt of court and the court may make an order requiring you to pay the reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the judgment creditor in this proceeding".

Abstract of Judgment/Lien on Property

If you believe that the judgment debtor owns real property (single family residence, condominium, townhouse,land, commercial property). filing a lien is always a good idea. If the judgment debtor ever sells the property or re-finances, you will will be contacted and paid off (with interest). Getting that call from an Escrow company for a pay-off is mighty sweet!
Abstracts of Judgment last for 10 years, the same amount of time a judgment is good for. Be sure to renew the Abstract well before the final hour or risk having your lien removed from the real property.

Getting your lien is a two step process. First an Abstract has to be produced and filed at the Small Claims clerks office where your hearing was heard. As with other post judgment filings, you must wait 30 days after your judgment to file. The filing fee is now $25.00 to file the Abstract.
After filed, the Abstract is recorded in the county or counties that you believe the judgment debtor owns real property. The county recorder will charge approximately $23 to $30 to record. You are not limited as to how many counties you can file your Abstract.

Many clients will
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this site is not legal advice, but general information on legal issues commonly encountered in the Small Claims process.’s Legal Document Service is not a law firm and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. cannot provide legal advice and can only provide self-help services at your specific direction.