Checklists Civil Litigation Legal Topics

What Is a Debtor to Do When Judgment Day Comes?

debt_146748615After a money judgment has been entered against him or her, what can a debtor (or debtor’s attorney) do?

Once a money judgment is entered against the debtor, the way in which it can be enforced and the extent to which it can be enforced against the debtor’s property is, for the most part, controlled by a comprehensive statutory scheme in the enforcement of judgments law (EJL)(CCP §§680.010-724.260).

Things move fast after judgment. As soon as the judgment is entered, the judgment creditor can enforce the judgment against the judgment debtor’s property. CCP §683.010. And time limits for the debtor to act affirmatively may be very short.

Here are 3 ways a debtor can respond when a creditor is poised to enforce a money judgment:

  1. Argue that the judgment is not valid and enforceable. Check the timing: is the judgment being enforced between the date of entry by the court’s clerk (CCP §683.010) and 10 years thereafter (CCP §683.020), unless renewed under CCP §683.110?
  2. Claim that service of pleadings and papers wasn’t proper. Check who was served: after judgment is entered, any notice, order, or other pleading required to be served on the judgment debtor must generally be served on the judgment debtor and not on his, her, or its attorney of record (CCP §684.020).
  3. Attack the judgment. There are various possible ways to attack a judgment, including:
  • Motion for New Trial
  • Motion to Vacate and Enter Different Judgment
  • Motion to Correct Clerical Error
  • Motion for Relief From Default or Default Judgment Due to Mistake, Inadvertence, Surprise, or Excusable Neglect
  • Appeal of Money Judgment

Each of these possible lines of attack is discussed in the chapter on representing the debtor after entry of a money judgment in CEB’s Debt Collection Practice in California, chapter 4A. This chapter also includes a very useful checklist that will give you an orderly procedure for analyzing your client’s rights and remedies when a judgment creditor is moving toward enforcement. Also check out CEB’s program Creditors’ Remedies and Debtors’ Rights, available On Demand.

Related CEB blog posts:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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