Once a judgment is obtained in a court action, the next step is to enforce the judgment. The most effective post-judgment enforcement tools are the abstract of judgment, wage garnishment, bank levy, and rent garnishment.
- Abstract of Judgment. An abstract of judgment is a document issued by the court and recorded in the real property records which places a judicial lien on all of the judgment debtor's property in the county. If the judgment debtor owns property in the county in which an abstract of judgment has been recorded, the abstract will show as a cloud on title when the judgment debtor tries to sell or finance the property. The abstract can be recorded in any or all counties in the state of California, depending upon where it is most likely that the judgment debtor owns property.
- Wage Garnishment. Wage garnishment is a process which requires the judgment debtor's employer to deduct a certain amount per pay period from the debtor's paycheck to be paid towards the judgment debt. Under federal and state law, the maximum wage garnishment is twenty‑five percent (25%) of the judgment debtor's disposable earnings, i.e., wages, salary, commissions and bonuses, less state and federal deductions. Wage garnishments are collected by the sheriff's department, which in turn disburses a check to the firm for payment to the association.
- Bank Levy. A bank levy requires the judgment debtor's bank to take all funds in the designated account and pay them over to the sheriff, which disburses the funds to the firm for payment to the association.
- Rent Garnishment. Rent garnishment is a process which requires the judgment debtor's tenant to pay his monthly rent payment to the sheriff, on behalf of the association as judgment creditor, rather than pay the judgment debtor.
The most efficient method for obtaining the information necessary to pursue these collection strategies is the judgment debtor exam, an informal question-and-answer session done in court, during which judgment debtors identify the extent and location of assets to the association's lawyer after being sworn-in by a court clerk.