Paying/Failing To Pay The Judgment
If you lose at trial or by default, 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.
Pursuant to section 1010.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, rule 2.253(b)(2) of the California Rules of Court, Orange County Superior Court Rule 352, and Administrative Order 13/03, all documents filed by attorneys in limited, unlimited, and complex civil actions must be filed electronically unless the Court rules otherwise. Self-represented parties are exempt from the mandatory electronic filing requirement set forth in Orange County Superior Court Local Rules 352, but are strongly encouraged to participate voluntarily in electronic filing and service
Electronically filed documents subject to the mandatory electronic filing requirements in civil limited, unlimited, and complex actions can be filed until midnight on the day that the filing is due, and will be considered timely pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1010.6 subdivision (d)(1)(D). The document is “filed” at the date and time it is received by the court and the confirmation of receipt is created. See Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 2.259(a)(1). Any electronically filed document received by the Court on or after midnight will be file stamped on the next court day.
In addition to the Self-Help Centers, if you need access to a computer to eFile, you can find public computers at most public libraries and at the Public Law Library.
You should make arrangements to pay the judgment immediately. If you do not pay, the creditor can start collecting the judgment right away. You can ask the judgment creditor 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).The judgment creditor has different legal options available to collect the judgment from you if you do not pay on your own. If this happens, you will also be responsible for the costs that the judgment creditor spends to collect the judgment as well as accrued interest.
If you do not pay the judgment, 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 the Judgment Creditor"). 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).
If you do not pay the judgment, 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 a payment agreement with the judgment creditor. If you make an agreement, this can stop the seizure of your property (see above "Paying the Judgment Creditor"). 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.
If you do not pay the judgment, 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:
If you do not pay the judgment, the judge can order you to appear in court. This is called an Application And Order For Appearance and Examination (EJ-125). You can be ordered into court every 4 months to furnish information to aid in the enforcement of judgment until you pay the judgment.
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".
If you have been served with an Order to Appear (see above "Hearing To Require Disclosure Of Assets") 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 Civil 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.
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.
The form called Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment (EJ-100) is like a receipt that says you paid the judgment. When 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.
The Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment is also 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."
If the judgment creditor does not file the Satisfaction voluntarily, write a letter to them and ask that they do so immediately.
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 eFile the form to the court. 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 Recorder in the State of California and their recording fees check that County’s website.
If the judgment creditor filed a Certificate of Facts Re 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 or visit the DMV website.
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.
Bankruptcy is a legal process to help debtors (people who owe money) get relief from the debts they cannot pay and, at the same time, help creditors (people who are owed money) get paid from whatever property or assets the debtor has that he or she does not need to live. Deciding to file for bankruptcy is a very tough decision. You may be feeling overwhelmed and bankruptcy seems like the only option. But think about the decision carefully because it can really affect you for a long time. Also, bankruptcy does not remove all debt, and there are certain types of debt that cannot be discharged (eliminated) in bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy may not always work to save your home or property, so you need to get advice from a bankruptcy lawyer about whether or not bankruptcy is a good option for you. Since there are different types of bankruptcy, one may be better for you than another, or bankruptcy may not be a good solution for your type of problems at all.
For more information read:
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: