As we have discussed, obtaining a money judgment in your favor is just the first step in the debt collection process. While the judgment is great news - you have a legal document stating that the other party owes you the money and you have a right to collect it - your goal is likely to get your money back. But how is that done? Many attorneys can bring a case to judgment but have no idea how to change that piece of paper into real money, or cash for you, the judgment creditor. Find a great collection lawyer!
First the good news -- a judgment in California lasts ten years and a judgment creditor can renew it at the first five years to effectively compound the interest and then every ten years to continue its effectiveness. In other words, you can grow old with your debtor unless you find a competent, aggressive collection attorney you need to help you enforce your judgment.
Commercial collections is a specialized niche within the legal industry. For one thing, the debtor has already decided not to pay the judgment so the attorney needs to find the hidden assets. This requires a keen ability to look for what is not in the documents and what is not being said to find assets. A savvy collection attorney will know how to exploit that void, that lack of testimony, that missing part in the document production to try and find what is buried, or what has been fraudulently transferred, gifted, omitted or concealed. If your collection attorney cannot read and decipher financial statements, tax returns & schedules, real estate documents, stock offerings and the like, and does not have experienced investigators to fill this void they are probably not going to be able to find possible hidden assets. A great collection attorney is like a detective... gathering evidence and facts to help you enforce your judgment.
It is not enough however, to just find the assets. Keep in mind that this debtor had the opportunity to voluntarily pay the obligation and chose not to. Your attorney must then enforce the judgment and levy upon the assets using a comprehensive statutory scheme known as Enforcement of Judgment Laws - California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 680.010 through 724.260. This very detailed statutory scheme is the play book for a creditor to levy on an asset (levy is a process where the Sheriff takes possession of the asset for liquidation with funds applied towards the judgment) and although detailed in nature, is often difficult to follow in reality and an area of unknown for many attorneys.
The various enforcement activities are highly technical and if you don't follow the rules exactly, your asset could be released. One more reason why it is so important to go with an experienced collection attorney or your money judgment is simply another piece of paper collecting dust.
To speak with an attorney with decades of experience collecting judgments against debtors, contact Los Angeles collections attorney Ronald P. Slates today.