Congratulations on winning your case. Now you have a judgment, either through default judgment or winning a contested trial. Now the defendants can no longer contest that he owes you money. It also means that you can get the aid of the court in enforcing the judgment. Most litigants do not realize that winning a lawsuit, whether by default or trial, in many instances is only half the battle. Court judgments are never self-enforcing. Honest debtors generally will pay soon after a judgment has been entered because a judgment appears on their credit reports and is a matter of public record. This can be a huge problem for any judgment debtor attempting to borrow money. Most banking institutions require that any unsatisfied judgments have to be paid before they will lend any new monies.
However, in a large number of instances, the debtor is unreasonable and unlikely to be willing to pay a judgment. At this point, a number of post-judgment remedies are available to you. Most self-represented litigants do not realize that a court will not collect your judgment for you. Simply put, you must enforce your rights to collect when it comes to collecting your judgment against an unwilling defendant. Collecting from a solvent debtor in a worst case scenario may be delayed, but generally results in payment, as there are assets available which can be levied upon. It is also common during negotiations to receive an offer for a lower lump-sum payment. However, if the debtor staunchly refuses, there are a number of available remedies to legally force payment.
Collecting a judgment against unwilling litigants is also complicated by a number of factors, such as
The knowledge of the laws of collection by the unwilling defendant,
In an ideal situation, the prevailing party simply asks for payment from the losing party and payment or transfer of assets is readily forthcoming. However, it is a rare occurrence indeed and is the most favorable outcome which would result in little to no post-judgment intervention. A judgment is no more than a piece of paper and quite commonly requires post-judgment enforcement to render the litigant entitled to the benefits set forth in the judgment. Realizing the money, assets, or property awarded in the judgment can only occur in two situations, voluntarily or involuntarily.
However it is necessary to ensure that collection efforts are not in violation of the laws of a particular jurisdiction or may be deemed retaliatory, possibly resulting in a judgment being entered against you. Judgments can become judgment liens and are enforceable for a specified period of time. For example, a Colorado District Court judgment is valid for 20 years from the date of judgment and upon application it may be revived for another 20 year period. A Colorado County Court judgment is also valid for 20 years but must be revived within every six year period. Not exercising one’s rights duly or not promptly reviving a judgment can result in the judgment becoming uncollectible or being subordinated to a lower level of priority.
Enforcing judgments is always successful when a client can identify assets of the judgment debtor to attach. Most successful creditors will have the asset information in their credit file collected in the due course of business similar to how a bank gets a financial statement with a loan application, any creditor should collect as much information as possible early on in the business relationship. Although it may not be possible to just hand the debtor an application, it is much easier to collect information from your debtor while you are still on friendly terms. Credit information should include bank accounts, vehicles, equipment and real estate owned. The credit application should also tell you how title to this property is held and identify existing liens on the same property. Enforcement techniques typically involve locating assets that the debtor has, attaching the judgment as a lien on them and eventually liquidating those assets to satisfy the judgment in favor of the client.
The most important thing to do is to collect copies of checks received from the debtor. Checks include much information, including addresses, legal name, bank name and bank account number. It’s not really necessary to keep a copy of every check, however copies should be made periodically. A creditor that already has asset information will be able to move faster and at a lower cost to enforce their judgment. It is often critical to perform an asset search. This is not legal work and can be performed by the client or any number of commercial services that are cheaper than an attorney. Commercial Internet services can be very effective at identifying assets at a very low cost. Various private investigators will perform this service, normally at an hourly rate
At Quiat Legal, we specialize in helping our clients realize money judgments. We do not guarantee results. We assess your circumstances and with the knowledge we have and what we uncover by investigation we can assess a list of potential assets upon which we seek recovery. With respect to those assets, we can explore the avenues of securing them, liquidating them, and applying them to your judgment. We can discuss with the cost to do that, the time required to do that, and the most likely impediments or issues that could be raised by the debtor to attempt to slow us down, divert us, exhaust us, or stop us. We go for the low hanging fruit, the assets that have the greatest equity, and the assets that have the greatest value. Oftentimes, we also go for the assets that will cause the most difficulty for the debtor. With you, together we can evaluate the likelihood of success, asset by asset, and together make informed business decisions for your benefit. Call today for a consultation.
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