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Sure Fire Ways to Insure Collection of a Judgement

1. Discovery. The first source of information is the creditor’s file.  Is there a credit application, financial statement, bank information, etc.  If not or the information is stale or lacking, then resort should be had to post-judgment discovery of the debtor.  Paper discovery, while inexpensive, is usually a waste of time.  A post-judgment deposition of the debtor, backed by a subpoena, is the best way to force a judgment debtor to produce their financial information (including tax returns and bank records) and identify assets. The information gained can be used to garnish funds, attach assets, or seek a turnover order.

2. Bank Accounts and Safe Deposit Boxes.  If the judgment debtor has either of these and you know about them, then you can ask the courts to levy the assets within each to satisfy your judgment.  Courts vary on the amount of information required to proceed against bank accounts.  Discovery can be made to banks to uncover information to support fraudulent transfer actions.  Be aware, however, that many state laws require notification to be provided to account holders. 

3. Wage Garnishment.  Some states (not Texas) permit garnishment of wages.  If you judgment debtor is employed, you may be able to get a court to allow you to require the employer to send you some or all of the wages.

4. Lien on Real Property. Most states allow judgment creditors to obtain what is called an “abstract” of the judgment which can be recorded in the property records of the county in which the judgment debtor may own real property.  This places a lien on real property of the debtor.  The lien may be foreclosed (subject to satisfaction of any prior liens) and, if the property is ever sold, any proceeds from the sale must first be used to pay off liens.  States in which the judgment debtor may have a homestead may require a release of all or part of the lien against such property. 

5. Engage Competent Counsel.  Using an attorney who specializes in collecting unpaid judgments can save money.  Counsel that is well-versed in the legal procedures required to navigate through the judicial system will enable you to access assets to satisfy your judgment.

Sarah Grace Chastain