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Property/Money Collection

This page tells you about your responsibilities and choices if:

  1. You lose the case
  2. You win the case
  1. If you lose the case

    If you lose at trial, and the judgment says you owe money or property to the other party, you are the “judgment debtor”. This means you owe money or property to the person who won. The other person is called the “judgment creditor.”

    Since you lost, you have certain responsibilities and choices:

    • 30 days to pay or mail financial statement:

      When you get your “Notice of Entry of Judgment” (SC - 130), you’ll also get a form called “Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets” (SC - 133 ). You have to fill out this form with information about the property you own and how much money you make. The person you owe money to will see that information.

      If you don’t file a motion to vacate or appeal, you have to pay the judgment. Or, you have 30 days to fill out the statement and mail it to the judgment creditor. If you file a motion to vacate or an appeal and you lose, you have 30 days from the day the clerk gave or mailed you:

      • the rejection of your motion to vacate,
      • the dismissal of your appeal, or
      • the judgment against you on your appeal

      to pay. If you don’t pay or fill out and mail the statement to the person who won by that date, you might have to go back to small claims court and pay a fine.

    • You can pay the judgment to the court:

      You can pay the court instead of the other person by filing the form called Request to Pay Judgment to the Court” (SC - 145) . You have to pay the judgment, costs, interest and a $20 court fee. This lets you solve the problem right away without having to see the judgment creditor.

    • Ask to pay in installments:

      You can ask the other person to let you pay what you owe in weekly or monthly payments. If you can’t agree on a payment plan, file a form called “Request to Make Payments” (SC - 220)  with your “Financial Statement” (EJ - 165) .

      The clerk will mail a copy to the person who won. They have 10 days to answer. After 10 days the court will mail its decision or schedule a hearing.

    • Oppose an Earnings Withholding Order:

      An “Earnings Withholding Order” (WG-002)  tells your employer to send portion of your paycheck to the sheriff instead of you. The standard portion withheld is 25% of your net (after-tax) pay. The sheriff will give the money to the person who won. The order stays in effect until you pay the debt or the court says it’s over.

      You can challenge an Earnings Withholding Order. You must file forms called “Claim of Exemption” (WG-006)  and “Financial Statement” (WG-007/EJ-165) . You have to file these forms with the sheriff, not the court. The sheriff will send a copy to the judgment creditor.

      If the person who won opposes your claim, the sheriff will send the papers to the court. The court will set a hearing date and figure out how much of your paycheck should be withheld.

      You can challenge the withholding order again if what you earn or what you have to spend changes. You’ll have to file a new Claim of Exemption and Financial Statement with the sheriff.

      Note: Some kinds of income can’t be taken to pay the judgment:

    • Oppose a levy on personal property:

      The person who won can get an order that tells the sheriff to take your personal property, like the money in your bank account or your car, to pay the judgment. When the sheriff takes your property, you’ll get a “Notice of Levy” (EJ - 150) .

      You can challenge the levy. After you get the notice of levy you have 10 days (or 15 days from the date it was mailed) to file a form called “Claim of Exemption” (WG-006) . Say what property you don’t want them to take and why the law protects the property. The clerk or Small Claims Advisor can give you a pamphlet that explains what kinds of property the law protects.

      File your Claim of Exemption with the sheriff, not the Court. The sheriff will send a copy to the person who won. If the person who won doesn’t oppose your claim in time, you’ll get your property back. If they oppose your claim, the sheriff will send the papers to the Court. The Court will set a hearing to decide if the law protects the property.

      If the judge rejects your claim, they’ll sell your property to pay the judgment. If the judge grants your claim, you’ll get your property back.

    • Ask the court or the person who won to enter a satisfaction of judgment:

      The form called “Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment” (SC - 130)  is like a receipt that says you paid the judgment. If you pay the court, the court will file this form. If you pay the person who won, they have to fill out and file the form. If the person who won doesn’t file the form in a reasonable amount of time, you can ask the small claims clerk for help.

      File a local form from Santa Clara County called “Request for Entry of Satisfaction of Judgment by Judgment Debtor”. You can get this form at the Clerks' Office. You have to prove to the clerk that you paid, and that the person who won won’t file. If you have enough proof, the court will enter a satisfaction of judgment.

    • Minimize damage to your credit report:

      Even if you file an appeal or motion to vacate, the judgment can show up on your credit report. If this happens, get in touch with the credit agency and tell them you’re challenging the judgment. If you don’t challenge the judgment, or you lose your motion or appeal, the judgment will show up on your credit report.

      If you pay, your credit won’t be as damaged as if you don’t pay. If you paid, but the judgment still shows up on your credit report, mail the credit agency a copy of the “Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment”.

      Note: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling  (NFCC) is a national non-profit group that helps people deal with stressful money situations.

    • Remove a lien from land or a house:

      If the person who wins files an “Abstract of Judgment” (EJ-001) , in a county where you own land or a house, they can put a lien on that property. This means that you might not be able to sell that land or house until you remove the lien.

      To remove a lien you have to pay the judgment and get an “Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment” (EJ - 100) . Then, record this form in the county where your land or house is. You will have to pay a fee.

      Note: The “Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment” (SC - 130)  is probably not enough to remove the lien. The clerk can’t fill out the form EJ - 100 because he or she doesn’t know where or when the abstract was recorded.

      If you paid, but the person who won won’t fill out form EJ - 100, ask the court to make a special order. Then, record that order. You will have to pay a fee.
  2. If you win the case

    If you win at trial and the judgment says the other person owes you money or property, you are the “judgment creditor”. The person who lost is called the “judgment debtor.”

    Since you won, you have certain responsibilities and choices:

    • Collect the judgment yourself:

      You have to take legal steps to collect the judgment. The Court won’t collect it for you. You can get a collection agency to collect your judgment, but you might have to pay them up to 1/2 of the judgment or more.

      Regardless of whether you were the plaintiff or defendant at trial, if the judgment states that the other party owes you money or possession of property, then you are the “judgment creditor” and the other party is the “judgment debtor.” As the judgment creditor, you have the following duties and options:

    • Get in touch with the judgment debtor:

      Start by getting in touch with the person who lost. Give them an address where they can mail the payment. You can offer to accept less than the whole judgment if they pay right away. Or, you can agree to take regular payments. Write to the person who lost instead of calling. That way, you can’t argue.

      The person who owes you money can pay you or the court all at once, or ask to make payments. If they file a form called “Request to Make Payments” (SC - 220)  and you can’t agree on a payment plan, file a response to say what kind of payment plan you want.

    • Read legal guides, talk to a lawyer:

      If the person who lost won’t pay, it can be complicated, expensive and take a lot of time to collect your money. You might want to talk to a lawyer or read a legal guide about how to enforce judgments before you try anything else. If you don’t, you could waste time and money or do something illegal.

    • Get an Order to Produce a Statement of Assets & Appear for Examination:

      When the person who lost gets the Notice of Entry of Judgment (SC - 130) , they’ll also get a form called the "Judgment Debtor's Statement of Assets" (SC - 133) . They’ll have to pay the judgment or fill out the statement and mail it to you.

      If the person who lost doesn’t do this, you can get the court to order them to go back to small claims court. File the form called “Order to Produce Statement of Assets and to Appear for Examination” (SC-134) . You will have to pay a fee. The clerk will give you a hearing date.

      You must have a sheriff or registered process server serve the Order on the judgment debtor. You should contact the Sheriff's Department in the county where the debtor resides to find out if they will serve the Order. You will have to pay the sheriff or process server to do this. Visit the Sheriff's Department in Santa Clara County .

      The Order won’t be valid unless someone serves it in person at least 10 days before the hearing AND the person who lost lives within 150 miles of the Court. If they live more than 150 miles away, then you'll have to file the "Order to Produce Statement of Assets (SC - 134)  plus an Abstract of Judgment (EJ-001)  in the county where the other party lives.

      The person who lost has to pay you or go to the hearing. If they haven’t paid before the hearing then you have to go to the hearing. The judge will make the person who lost fill out the statement of assets and answer your questions about the property they have and how much money they make.

    • Judgment debtor's examination:

      Even if you get the other person’s statement of assets, you can get the court to order them to go back to small claims court to answer questions about the property they own and how much money they make. File a form called “Application and Order for Appearance and Examination” (AT - 138) , (EJ - 125) . You’ll have to pay a filing fee.

      You can either hire a registered process server to serve the order or contact the Sheriff's Department in the county where the debtor resides to find out if they will serve the order. You'll have to pay the sheriff or process server to do this. Visit the Sheriff's Department in Santa Clara County .

      The order has to be served in person at least 10 days before the examination and the person who lost has to live within 150 miles of the Court. If they live more than 150 miles away, then you'll have to file the "Order to Produce Statement of Assets (SC - 134)  plus an Abstract of Judgment (EJ-001)  in the county where the other party lives.

      The person who lost has to go to the hearing. So do you. The judge will make the person who lost answer your questions.

    • Record an Abstract of Judgment:

      An “Abstract of Judgment” (EJ-001)  puts a lien on any land, house or other building that the person who lost owns in that county. If the person who lost sells the property with title insurance, you’ll be paid using the money from the sale.

      You have to pay to get an Abstract of Judgment from the court. You also have to pay to record it in every county where the person might own land.

    • Get an "Issued" Writ of Execution

      A Writ of Execution is a form you fill out and take to the Small Claims Clerk's Office and have "issued." It describes the details of the judgment. There is a fee to have the writ issued. (For the fee, see "Writ of Execution" in the Small Claims section of the local fee schedule .

      You need to get a writ before you can use any of the four collection methods listed in the next section.

    • Collect payment

      Note regarding Sheriffs Departments:

      All of the collection methods listed below may involve requesting the help of a Sheriff. The Sheriff's Departments' procedures vary from one county to another. It is best to contact the Sheriffs Department in the county where the writ will be filed to find out the appropriate procedure for filing.

      Visit the Sheriff's Department in Santa Clara County .
       
      1. Get an Earnings Withholding Order:

        An “Earnings Withholding Order” (WG-002)  tells the other person’s employer to give the sheriff a portion of what they earn until the judgment is paid. The standard portion withheld is 25% of the person's net (after-tax) pay. The sheriff will give you the money to pay the judgment.

        First you have to get an issued “Writ of Execution” (EJ - 130) , as described above. Then, file an “Application for Earnings Withholding Order” (WG-002)  with the sheriff or a process server and pay another fee. You’ll need to know the name and address of the employer of the person who lost. The sheriff or process server will serve them with the application.

        The employer will make sure the person who lost works there. Then, they’ll get the chance to oppose your application. The court can set a hearing to decide how much should be withheld to pay the judgment. See note regarding Sheriff Departments, above.

      2. Levy the judgment debtor's property:

        You can tell the sheriff to take money from the bank account of the person who lost, and give it to you. Or, you can get the sheriff to take that person’s car or other property, sell it, and give you the money. You’ll have to get a “Writ of Execution” (EJ - 130) , as described above.

        Fill out a “Notice of Levy” (EJ - 150)  and write instructions that describe the property and say where it is, and the name and address of the people who should get the Notice of Levy. You might have to have a judgment debtor's examination to get this information.

        Give the Notice of Levy and instructions to the sheriff. You’ll have to pay a fee to the sheriff. The person who lost will get a chance to challenge the levy before the sheriff sells their property. You might have a hearing about this. See note regarding Sheriff Departments, above.

      3. Have the sheriff do a "till tap":

        If the person who lost has a business with a cash register, you can get the sheriff to go to the business and take enough money out of the register to pay the judgment and the sheriff's fee. You have to get a “Writ of Execution” (EJ - 130) , as described above.

        You’ll have to pay a fee to the Sheriff.

        If there’s not enough money in the register to pay the judgment, you will have to pay another fee every time the sheriff goes back. See note regarding Sheriff Departments, above.

      4. Put a "keeper" in the debtor's business:

        If the debtor is a business, you can get the sheriff to put someone (called a “keeper”) in the business for a certain amount of time. They’ll collect all the cash, checks and bank credit card drafts until the time is up or the judgment is paid.

        Get a “Writ of Execution” (EJ - 130) , as described above. Then fill out the “Notice of Levy” (EJ - 150) ) and write instructions, including the name and address of the business and the date and hours you want the “keeper” to stay in the business.

        You’ll have to pay the sheriff a set fee. You have to pay another fee every time the keeper goes back. See note regarding Sheriff Departments, above.
    • File a Memorandum of Costs After Judgment:

      If you have to use legal proceedings to collect your money, you’ll have to pay a lot of fees. You can add most of these extra costs and interest to your original judgment. You can claim the interest from the date of the judge’s decision until the Writ of Execution is filed plus your extra costs.

      Fill out and file a “Memorandum of Costs After Judgment” (MC - 012)  with the small claims court. Get someone to serve a copy of the memorandum on the person who lost. Then have the person complete the proof of service document on the back of the form and give it to the court.

      The person who lost will have 10 days to file a motion to dispute some or all of the costs. If the person who lost doesn’t file a motion in time, the clerk will add the costs to the judgment. If they file a motion, you’ll get a notice of hearing about the motion.

      The court will decide if you should get paid for the costs you claimed.

    • Suspend the debtor's driver's license:

      If your judgment is from a car accident on a California highway and the person who lost caused the accident by driving, you can ask to get their driver's license suspended. If you’re not sure if you can do this, look at item 10 on your Notice of Entry of Judgment (SC - 130) .

      To suspend their driver's license, fill out form DL17 from DMV. If the judgment is for $500 or less, they’ll suspend the driver's license for 90 days. If the judgment is for more than $500, the driver's license will be suspended until they pay.

      To get more information, call DMV’s Civil Judgment Unit at (916) 657 - 7573 .

    • Do not use illegal ways to collect your money:

      The person who owes you money is protected from abusive or unfair ways to collect the debt. Collection agencies and people who collect their own debts can’t:

      • Lie or make misleading statements to collect a debt,
      • Harass the person who owes them money,
      • Ask for more than basic information about where the debtor is from another person,
      • Tell the debtor's employer or other people that the debtor owes them money (except when you get an earnings withholding order), or
      • Get in touch with the debtor before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. or at any time or place that isn’t convenient.

      If you have questions about what you can do to collect a debt, contact the Small Claims Advisor, or talk to a lawyer.

    • Renew the judgment:

      Usually, you have 10 years to enforce your judgment. But, if you can’t collect the whole judgment in that time, you can get 10 more years to collect the debt. File a form called “Application For and Renewal of Judgment” (EJ - 190) . You’ll have to pay a fee.

      You have to file before the first 10 years are up. You can’t enforce the renewed judgment until you serve the person who owes you money with a form called “Notice of Renewal of Judgment” (EJ - 195) . They have 30 days from the day they’re served to file a motion to vacate or modify the renewal.

    • File an acknowledgment of satisfaction:

      After you have been paid in full, you must file an “Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment.” If you didn’t record an Abstract of Judgment, just fill out and file the form on the back of the Notice of Entry of Judgment (SC - 130) .

      If you did file an Abstract, you have to file the form called “Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment” (EJ - 100) . You’ll have to name every county where you recorded the Abstract of Judgment and sign the form in front of a notary public.

      Note: If you don’t file the acknowledgment, and person who lost tells the court, you will be fined at least $50 plus any damages caused to the debtor.
© 2014 Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara