This page contains information concerning:
- Paying the Judgment Creditor or Completing a Statement of Assets Form
- Paying the Court
- Paying in Installments
- Opposing an Earnings Withholding Order
- Opposing a Levy on Personal Property
- Opposing the Sale of Your Land, Buildings, or Home
- Hearing to Require Disclosure Your Assets
- What to Do If There Is a Warrant for Your Arrest
- How Long Is the Judgment Valid
- What to Do after the Judgment Is Paid
- What to Do If There Is a Lien on Your Real Property
- What to Do If Your Driver’s License Has Been Suspended
- What to Do If Your Professional License Has Been Suspended
- How to Get More Information
If you lose at trial, and the judgment says you owe money to the other party, you are the "judgment debtor". This means you owe money to the person who won. The other person is called the "judgment creditor". Read this section carefully. You can avoid additional court costs, interest and the seizure of your property including your bank account or wages by paying your judgment on time or requesting payments.
Paying the Judgment Creditor or Completing a Statement of Assets Form
When you get your Notice of Entry of Judgment (SC-130) in the mail after the trial you will also get a form called Judgment Debtor’s Statement of Assets (SC–133) . You have to fill out this form with information about the property you own and how much money you make and mail it back to the judgment creditor within 30 days unless you have paid the judgment in full.
If you file a Motion to Vacate the Judgment because you did not appear at the trial or a Notice of Appeal because you were dissatisfied with the judge’s decision and you lose, you have 30 days from the day the clerk mailed the notice of the court’s decision on the appeal or motion hearing to complete the Judgment Debtor’s Statement of Assets. You do not have to complete and send the statement to the judgment creditor if you have paid the judgment in full. For more information read What Can I Do If I Can’t Pay My Debts?.
If you do not pay or fill out and mail the Statement to the judgment creditor, you might be in contempt and be sanctioned by the court. This means a warrant for your arrest may be issued and you may have to pay penalties and attorney’s fees.
Paying the Court
You can pay the court instead of the judgment creditor by filing the form called Request to Pay Judgment to the Court (SC-145) .You have to pay the judgment, costs, and interest. You will also have to pay a filing fee. This lets you solve the problem right away without having to see or contact the judgment creditor. The court will also have a record that the judgment has been satisfied (paid in full). If you pay the judgment in full within 30 days you will avoid having your assets and property seized and applied towards payment of the judgment.
Paying In Installments
You can ask the other person to let you pay what you owe in weekly or monthly payments. This is the easiest way. Fill out the form Stipulation For Time Payments (L-1094) and file it with the court after it has been signed by both parties. There is no filing fee. If you cannot agree on a payment plan and you would like the court to order that you are allowed to make payments, do this:
- Read the information form called Payments in Small Claims Cases (SC-220-INFO)
- File these two forms with the court: Request to Make Payments (SC-220) and Financial Statement (EJ-165) . There is no filing fee.
The clerk will mail these forms to the judgment creditor. The judgment creditor can agree, disagree, or ask for a different payment plan by completing a Response to Request to Make Payments (SC-221) and filing it with the court within 10 days. The clerk will mail a notice to the parties of the judge’s decision or of a hearing date to decide the matter.
Opposing an Earnings Withholding Order
If you do not pay the judgment within 30 days or file a Motion to Vacate the Judgment or Notice of Appeal the judgment creditor can "garnish" your wages. An Earnings Withholding Order (WG-02) tells your employer to send a portion of your paycheck to the Sheriff instead of you. The standard portion withheld is 25% of your net (after-tax) pay. The Sheriff will give the money to the judgment creditor. The order stays in effect until you pay the debt. You can try to work out an agreement with the judgment creditor (see above "Paying In Installments"). If you make an agreement, the withholding of your wages will stop or be changed to a smaller amount you agree on. This may also avoid a court hearing.
If your wages are garnished, the Sheriff will send you information. Read it carefully for your options. You can ask for an "exemption" to protect all or some of your earnings. You can get an exemption if you need your earnings to support yourself or your family.
You cannot get an exemption if:
- You use some of your earnings for luxuries
- The money you owe is for food, clothing, medical care, or housing
- You owe the debt for past due child support or spousal support
- You owe the debt to a former employee for wages
You must file forms called Claim of Exemption (WG-006) and Financial Statement (EJ-165) with the Sheriff listed on your paperwork, not the court. File your Claim of Exemption as soon as possible for the most protection.
If the judgment creditor opposes your claim, the Sheriff will send the papers to the court. The court will set a hearing date and mail a notice to the parties to attend. At the hearing, the judge will figure out how much of your paycheck should be withheld.
NOTE: Some kinds of income cannot be taken to pay the judgment such as pensions, Social Security, Workers’ Compensation and welfare. The form Exemptions from the Enforcement Of Judgments (EJ-155) contains a comprehensive listing. For more information read Employee Instructions (WG-003) .
Opposing a Levy (Seizure) of Personal Property
If you do not pay the judgment within 30 days or file a Motion to Vacate the Judgment or Notice of Appeal the judgment creditor can garnish or "seize" your property. The judgment creditor can get an order that tells the Sheriff to take your personal property, like the money in your bank account or your car, to pay the judgment. You can try to work out an agreement with the judgment creditor (see above Paying In Installments). If you make an agreement, this can stop the seizure of your property. This may also avoid a court hearing.
When the Sheriff takes your property, you will get a Notice of Levy (EJ-150) . Read this form carefully. Some personal property may be exempt from seizure. If you think that all or some of the property is exempt from seizure, you have 10 days after the Notice of Levy was given to you (or 15 days from the date it was mailed) to file a form called Claim of Exemption (WG-160) . If you check number 7 on the claim form, you must also attach a Financial Statement (EJ-
To read more about the types of property and the amount that may be exempt read the forms Exemptions from the Enforcement Of Judgments (EJ-155) and Current Dollar Amount Exemptions .
File your Claim of Exemption with the Sheriff listed on your paperwork, not the court. If the judgment creditor does not oppose your claim in time, you may get your property back.
If the judgment creditor opposes your claim, the Sheriff will send the papers to the court. The court will set a hearing date and mail a notice to the parties to attend. If the judge rejects your claim, the Sheriff will pay to the judgment creditor any cash seized or sell your property to pay the judgment. If the judge grants your claim, you will get some or all of your cash or property back.
Opposing the Sale of Your Home or Other Real Property
If you do not pay the judgment within 30 days or file a Motion to Vacate the Judgment or Notice of Appeal the judgment creditor can sell your real property. The judgment creditor can get an order to sell your land, buildings, or home. Before your home can be sold, there must be a hearing to let you prove that you or your family live there. The judgment creditor must give or mail to you a copy of the Order to Show Cause, Application for Sale, and Notice of Hearing on Right to Homestead Exemption (EJ-180) and personally serve the occupants of the home at least 30 days before the hearing.
READ THESE PAPERS CAREFULLY. You may be able to stop the sale or keep some of the money from the sale. The purpose of the hearing is to decide if your home should be sold and if you qualify for a homestead exemption.
For more information on homestead exemptions:
- Consult an attorney, Small Claims Advisor or Self-Help Center staff.
- Read the Code of Civil Procedure on homestead exemptions beginning with Section 704.710.
Hearing To Require Disclosure Assets
If you do not pay the judgment and do not complete the Judgment Debtor’s Statement of Assets (SC-133) within 30 days after the clerk mailed the Notice of Entry of Judgment, the judge can order you to appear in court. This is called an Application and Order To Produce Statement Of Assets and To Appear For Examination (SC-134) .
You can also be ordered into court every 4 months to furnish information to aid in the enforcement of judgment until you pay the judgment. This is called an Application And Order For Appearance and Examination (EJ-125) .
If you have been served with an Order to Appear and fail to go to the hearing and have not paid the judgment, including post-judgment costs and interest, a bench warrant may be issued for your arrest. You may be held in contempt of court and you may be ordered to pay penalties. For more information on what do to if a warrant has been issued, see below "What To Do If There Is A Warrant For Your Arrest".
What to Do If There Is a Warrant for Your Arrest
If you have been served with an Order to Appear and fail to go to the hearing and have not paid the judgment, including post-judgment costs and interest, a bench warrant may be issued for your arrest. You may be held in contempt of court and you may be ordered to pay penalties.
If a warrant has been issued, do one of the following:
- Pay the judgment creditor in full and have them sign an Acknowledgment of Satisfaction Of Judgment (see below section "What To Do After The Judgment Is Paid"). Take the Satisfaction to the court where the case was filed. File the Satisfaction with the clerk and request that the warrant be recalled.
- Make a request to the judge to have the warrant recalled. To do this, appear in the Small Claims Division at the court where the case was filed at 8:00am to 4:00pm, Monday- Friday. You may be required to post bail or released on your own recognizance. The judge will schedule a new hearing date and notify the judgment creditor.
How Long Is the Judgment Valid
A judgment is valid for 10 years. The judgment creditor may apply to have the judgment extended for an additional 10 years, for a total of 20 years.
What to Do after the Judgment Is Paid
The form called Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment is like a receipt that says you paid the judgment. If you pay the court (see above "Pay The Court"), the court will file this form. If you pay the judgment creditor they have to fill out the form. Either party can file the form at the court where the case was filed.
There are two types of forms:
- Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (EJ-100) which must be used if the judgment creditor has placed a lien on your land or buildings. The form is recorded in each county where the liens were recorded in order to release the liens and clear the title to the property. For more information on this process see below "What to Do if There is a Lien on Your Real Property."
- Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (SC-290) which can be used if no lien was recorded. This form is also on the reverse side of the Notice of Entry of Judgment form mailed to the parties after the trial.
If the judgment creditor does not file the Satisfaction voluntarily, write a letter to them and ask that they do so. Keep a copy of the letter. If 14 days have elapsed and the judgment creditor has refused to file the Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment or you do not know where they are, you may request that the court enter the Satisfaction of Judgment by completing and filing the form Small Claims Declaration and Order of Satisfaction of Judgment (L-1070) . Attach to the form a copy of your letter to the judgment creditor and proof of payment such as a receipt or canceled check.
What to Do If There Is a Lien on Your Real Property
If the judgment creditor records an Abstract of Judgment (EJ-001) , in a county where you own land, a house, or building, they can put a lien on that property. This means that you might not be able to sell that property until the lien is removed.
To remove a lien you have to pay the judgment and get the judgment creditor to complete a notarized Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (EJ-100) . Either party can file the form at the court where the case was filed. Then the judgment creditor or you have to record a certified copy of this form in the county where the property is. The plaintiff can also have a second form signed and notarized to record with the County Recorder. There is a fee to record the Satisfaction. For more information on this process, go to the Orange County Recorder’s website. For the locations of other County Recorders in the State of California and their recording fees check that County’s website.
What to Do If Your Driver’s License Has Been Suspended
If the judgment creditor filed a Certificate of Facts Re Unsatisfied Judgment or Notice of Unsatisfied Judgment with the California Department of Motor Vehicles due to your failure to pay a judgment resulting from an auto accident and you have paid the judgment in full or you are making court ordered payments, then you may apply to the DMV to stop the suspension of your license.
You must submit to DMV one or more of the following:
- An acknowledgment signed by the judgment creditor (provided to the judgment creditor by DMV at the time the creditor applied to have your license suspended).
- A Declaration (MC-030) signed by you stating that the judgment has been paid in full.
- Proof that you are complying with court ordered payments.
- Proof that you had insurance covering the accident sufficient to satisfy the judgment.
- A deposit with the DMV in the amount of the judgment, if you are unable to locate the judgment creditor.
For more information check with the DMV at (916) 657-7573.
What to Do If Your Professional License Has Been Suspended
If you had a professional license suspended (such as a contractor license or real estate license) and you have paid the judgment in full, contact the appropriate State Licensing Agency to find out how to get your license back.
How to Get More Information
For more information to help you understand the collections process and the action that the judgment creditor may take against you if you fail the pay the judgment, go to the:
- California Courts website - Pay Your Judgment
- California Courts website - Bankruptcy
- U.S. Courts website - Bankruptcy
- What to Do After the Court Decides Your Small Claims Case (SC-200-INFO)
- Small Claims Advisory Program website [Word File]
- California Department of Consumer Affairs
- California State Bar (What Can I Do If I Can’t Pay My Debts?)