If a creditor sues and wins a judgment against a debtor, they can then use serious collection methods like wage garnishments, bank levies, and property liens to try to recover their unpaid debt. However, debt collection requires diligence and knowledge of state laws to ensure that these strategies are legally effective and successful.

Whether or not a judgment is successfully collected, it can become stale and unenforceable after a set amount of time. Each state establishes its own statute of limitations, ranging from five to twenty years. In California, a judgment for money damages is valid for ten years, and can be renewed for another 10 years if the creditor files the right forms in a timely fashion. Failure to renew a judgment prior to the ten-year limit voids it forever.

To find out more about a debtor’s assets, file an Application and Order to Appear for Examination (Form SC-133) with the court. A court clerk will review the form and schedule a hearing date. The debtor will have to go back to court and answer questions about the property they own and how much money they make. The judgment creditor can also get a lien on property by filing an Abstract of Judgment with the county recorder in each county where the debtor owns real estate or may own real estate in the future.

A creditor can also request a levy of the debtor’s wages by filing an Application and Order to Produce Wages and to Levy (Form SC-134). The judgment creditor can then have a licensed process server serve the levy on the debtor.