If a court has entered a monetary judgment in your favor and against an opposing litigant, you become a judgment-creditor. At that point, you may feel as though you have “won” the case. In many respects, you would be correct as a court of law has validated your legal and factual position. However, simply obtaining a judgment does not guarantee that you will ultimately receive the money awarded by the court. In many instances, the judgment-debtor does not voluntarily pay the judgment amount. This could be because the judgment-debtor is facing an economic hardship or because the judgment-debtor is simply trying to avoid its obligation to pay. In the event a judgment-debtor is not paying a judgment entered in your favor, additional legal steps are needed to receive the money to which you are entitled.
In New Jersey, judgment-creditors have multiple possible avenues for relief. It is imperative that you understand your rights as a judgment-creditor and the required procedures for executing upon a lawful judgment. For example, upon receipt of court entered judgment, it is important to timely record the judgment with the Clerk of the Superior Court. At that point the judgment becomes a statewide lien against real property held by the judgment-debtor. A judgment lien stays in effect for twenty (20) years, and it can be renewed for an additional twenty (20) years thereafter.
Critical to the post-judgment execution process is having knowledge of the judgment-debtor’s assets. To assist in this process, a judgment-creditor is entitled to serve an Information Subpoena upon the judgment-debtor. An Information Subpoena requires a judgment-debtor to disclose information about its assets, including but not limited to bank account information, employment information, and information relating to personal and real property owned by the judgment-debtor. Enforcement of the Information Subpoena through the Court may be necessary if the judgment-debtor does not provide fully responsive answers.
Once you have knowledge of assets, you can attempt to enforce the various remedies afforded to judgment-creditors by the State of New Jersey. Two of the most common remedies are wage garnishments and bank levies. In addition, a judgment-creditor can obtain a writ of execution which can be used to levy a judgment-debtor’s personal property. Once levied, you can force a sale of the judgment-debtor’s personal property. In the event the judgment-debtor’s personal property is insufficient to satisfy the judgment, you may be permitted to force a sale of the judgment-debtor’s real property. A judgment-debtor’s real property cannot be sold without a Court Order. Accordingly, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine if the sale of real property is a viable option for your case.
Finally, judgments obtained in other States can be recorded in New Jersey and enforced in New Jersey if you believe a judgment-debtor holds assets in New Jersey. For instance, you may have obtained a judgment from a Pennsylvania Court while the judgment-debtor owns a rental property on the Jersey Shore. Likewise, if you have obtained a judgment from a New Jersey Court and believe the judgment-debtor is holding assets in another State, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss the possibility of proceeding with post-judgment enforcement in the other State.
In summary, the entry of judgment does not necessarily end the litigation. If you have obtained a judgment and need assistance collecting the money awarded to you, the attorneys of McDowell Law PC will be able to assist you in determining the best course of action.