I am often asked if judgment recovery is truly a legal business. I guess some folks just worry that if you’re not an attorney, using the courts to enforce a judgment that was awarded to someone else is somehow breaking the law. It’s also a common misperception that collecting any money judgment (even your own) through the court system without hiring an attorney can somehow land you in legal hot water.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is no court in the land that will not allow you to use the court system to collect your civil money judgment on your own behalf. Certainly, if you attempt to collect a judgment for someone else, and you are not an attorney, you are going to get yourself into trouble. So let me stress the most important term, and key point of this article: On Your Own Behalf
A civil money judgment is an asset which can be bought, sold, transferred, etc. If you want to get downright technical, a civil judgment is referred to as ‘a thing in action.’ When a judgment is assigned, the ownership of the judgment is transferred from the original judgment holder to the assignee (that would be you, in this case). From that point on, you own the judgment and anything you do to enforce the judgment is done on your own behalf. You will be legally recognized by the court as the judgment creditor, and you will have all the same rights and remedies at your disposal to enforce the judgment through the court as did the original judgment holder.
Once the judgment is yours, you are entitled to locate the whereabouts and assets of your judgment debtor using many investigative resources that are typically only available to private investigators, professional collectors and law enforcement agencies. You are not considered to be a private investigator because – again – you’re conducting an investigation on your own behalf.
As a judgment creditor, you will also have the authority to use special court procedures to find assets. Post-judgment debtor examinations are court-ordered proceedings in which the judgment debtor must appear in court and directly answer your questions about finances, income, assets and more. This can also be conducted with written interrogatories through the mail. You will also have the power of subpoenas. A subpoena is another type of court order that demands specific documents to be provided to you for your inspection. Post-judgment debtor examinations and subpoenas can be used with judgment debtors, as well as other third parties who may have information about your debtor’s employer, business(es), bank accounts, property or other assets.
Once you’ve identified what and where the assets are, you can then direct the court to seize those assets on your behalf as a judgment creditor. Generally assets are seized through what we call a levy. A levying officer will act on your specific instructions to seize the asset as directed. Anything collected through the levying process will be turned over to you – since you’re the owner of the judgment and the judgment creditor.
It really is that simple.
Let me finish by assuring you that enforcing a judgment through the court system on your own behalf never has – and never will – be illegal or require attorney
I realize that a lot of the above is a little ‘technical’ – so please – let me know if you have any questions or comments. Of course, if you would like to read articles about other specific topics, just ask!