What You Need to Know About Enforcing a Judgement in California

After a family law money judgement, individuals often have trouble collecting money from their former spouses, also known as debtors. Here’s how to enforce a family law money judgement in California.

California courts state that individuals must collect family law money judgements from their ex spouses or domestic partners themselves; the court will NOT enforce the judgement for you.

In California, you are entitled to your money judgement if:

  • The judgement has been entered into the court records AND
  • No stay on enforcement of the judgement (such as a stay due to bankruptcy) is present

How to Collect Your Judgement

First, give your ex spouse or domestic partner a mailing address to which they can send the payment. Individuals can also accept less than the judgement, if their spouse offers to pay immediately. However, if you accept anything less than the original judgement, you are no longer entitled to the difference in money.

If some time has gone by and your ex spouse or domestic partner has not sent you the payment, you should send him or her a written letter detailing your request, along with a photocopy of the court order. Take the steps necessary to ensure that your former spouse or domestic partner is aware of his or her obligation and intends to pay the judgment in full. If he or she refuses to pay, state that you will take more serious measures to ensure you are paid.

If you believe your partner is refusing to pay up, consult an attorney. Although one can be costly to hire, an attorney can get you the payments you deserve. Also, do not take illegal measures to attempt to collect your payment. Illegal measures of collection include extortion, blackmail, or threats. If you use illegal measures to collect your funds, your former spouse may use that against you.

How to Get Your Partner to Pay You Voluntarily

If you and your former partner (debtor) have not gone head to head and are still willing to contact each other in a civil manner, try to get him or her to voluntarily pay up.

If you want your former spouse to pay up voluntarily, you can:

  • Be flexible by accepting installment payments or a slightly lower judgement (if you are ok with that)
  • Help the debtor create a source of income to send your payment
  • Send him or her a written letter detailing your request, along with a photocopy of the court order

In your letter, you can explain to your former partner that if he or she refuses to pay,

  • Creditors will be less likely to give him or her a loan. He or she will appear on the California court’s “Judgement Roll”.
  • You can possibly place a levy on your former partner’s bank account
  • You can possibly place a lien on the debtors real or personal property
  • You will expect compensation for costs of collection
  • You will expect to collect accrued 10% annual interest

When your former spouse seriously does not have the funds to make payments, you can encourage him or her to:

  • Auction personal items (on eBay, for example)
  • Use an income tax refund
  • Host a garage sale
  • Seek a credit card advance

If you, the debtee, are okay with being flexible, you can offer to:

  • Accept weekly, biweekly, or monthly payments instead of one large payment
  • Accept slightly lower judgement
  • Accept property as a form of payment
  • Help him or her find work

In some situations, being flexible can truly pay off.

However, if you were a victim of domestic violence, DO NOT offer such flexibilities. Contact or speak to your former partner only in the presence of a lawyer or others. It is not ok to let your former spouse or domestic partner take advantage of you.

If Your Former Spouse Refuses to Pay

If you repeatedly fail to collect the family law money judgement in a peaceful manner, then you might want to consider taking more serious legal actions. If the debtor (your former spouse or domestic partner) refuses to pay the family law money judgment, you can

  • Seek information regarding the debtor’s assets
  • Place a lien on your former partner’s real or physical property
  • Collect payments from his or her wages
  • Collect payments from his or her bank account

How to Get a Writ of Execution

You can find out what assets your former partner has in his or her possession by getting a writ of execution, or a judicial order that a judgement’s terms be enforced.

After receiving a writ of execution, you (the creditor) can ask your former partner (the debtor) appear in court to answer your questions under oath. You can ask your partner about his or her assets, debts, and financial situation.

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.

Writs of execution are only valid for 6 months (180 days) since the date of issuance.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one is seeking to enforce a family law money judgement, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.