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New Jersey Judgment Enforcement
I am not a lawyer. If you need legal advice, contact a lawyer (See our National Lawyer State Bar List). This is a summary of how to collect a judgment in the state of New Jersey. Here is a link to learn more, and to get the basic forms needed: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/prose/index.htm.
A judgment is a final order issued by a judge that specifies that the defendant is a debtor and owes money to the plaintiff/creditor. Once you are awarded a judgment, the court cannot help you enforce it. You can enforce it yourself or get help to enforce it.
New Jersey does not have simplest judgment interest rate laws. Currently, the base judgment interest rate in New Jersey is 1.5%. This is (non-compounded) annual interest. Post-judgment interest is not compounded until the judgment is renewed. When a judgment is renewed, whatever interest has accrued on the original judgment is added, and becomes part of the principal amount of the judgment.
Effective Sept 1, 1996, if the judgment amount exceeds $15,000, 2% is added to the interest rate. You must calculate the interest rate for each year. http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/civil/PostPre-JudgmentRates.pdf.
Anyone who enforces a judgment must keep track of interest accrued, credits (when the debtor pays you), and debits (what you had to spend). This is not as easy as it sounds, as payments must be applied to interest first, then the principal owed.
New Jersey judgments may be enforced for twenty years. A judgment may be renewed one time only, for another twenty years, with a noticed (to the debtor) motion though the court.
One of the old-school ways to collect a judgment is to docket your judgment, which is the same as recording a lien in most other states. If the debtor sells (and the property is not underwater) or refinances, you might get paid.
In New Jersey, to create a statewide lien on any real property a debtor has or will have, you docket the judgment at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex (in the Judgment Unit) in Trenton, NJ.
You start by requesting a statement for docketing the judgment. Once you request that statement for docketing, the judgment cannot be enforced until it is docketed into the Hughes Justice Complex. If you can enforce the judgment without a lien, you can return the statement back to the original court.
After the judgment is docketed in Trenton, all future enforcement proceedings must be performed in the Trenton Law Division - even if your judgment was first rendered in the Special Civil or Small Claims courts. For this reason, if the debtor does not own property, often small claims judgments are not docketed in Trenton.
If the debtor has a job (too often old-school, unfortunately) you may be able to garnish (levy) up to 10% of their wages. If the debtor's income exceeds 250% of the poverty level, then the court may issue an order a larger percentage garnishment up to 25%.
Also if there is already another garnishment in progress, yours will not work, until the previous garnishment has finished, paying off the debtor's previous debt.
If a person is self-employed or for other reasons, you can apply to the Court for an order for the debtor to pay in installments. You must motion the court to do this.
If you succeed in getting such an order, and the debtor refuses to comply, you may bring a motion to hold the debtor in contempt. After they are held in contempt and they still do not comply you may make an ex-parte (without requiring the debtor being present) petition/application to the Court for an arrest warrant.
Another tool to enforce a judgment is a Writ of Execution (Writ). If you are not doing a wage levy, the Writ is the tool to use.
If the judgment is a docketed judgment, you need to create your own Writ along with endorsements of how much the debtor owes, the credits, interest etc. Bring it to the Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton, where the Clerk of the Superior Court will review it. And then in a couple days will be ready.
The Writ is directed to the sheriff of a specific county - the one where the debtor's assets are. That Writ may only be used in that specific county. However, you may get an alias Writ directed to another sheriff in another county.
Once the Writ is given back to you, from the Hughes Justice Complex, you then bring the Writ to the sheriff's office of the county, and direct the sheriff to execute on what you want them to seize.
In the Special Civil Part of the court, you tell the Clerk what you want executed, and they will draft up the Writ and send it to the Special Civil Part Officer. The Officer will then execute on (seize) the debtor's assets.
You execute on banks where you suspect the debtor has an account. If it is successful, you will eventually receive something from the Sheriff or Special Civil Part Officer.
Once the officer serves the bank, the debtor's account will be frozen. You then will have to apply for a Turnover Order through a noticed motion to the debtor, and the bank. The monies are to sent to the Sheriff or the Special Civil Part officer.
You may also execute on a debtor's personal property (e.g. a TV set or a car) and bring it to sale. Real property (e.g. a house) may also be brought to sale, but by law you must exhaust all other options.
If the property is jointly owned you would only be auctioning off the survivorship of the judgment debtor's interest in the property. It is not usually a good idea to sell property that has a mortgage, as the mortgage will always take priority - even if the mortgage started after the judgment lien was recorded.
To attempt to discover a trail to the debtor's assets, there are a few ways to go: One way is the Information Subpoena to the judgment debtor: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/rules/app11l.pdf.
An information subpoena is a subpoena with written questions that are required to be answered. The law directs the judgment debtor to answer them completely and honestly.
Without involving the court, these information subpoenas can be sent to the debtor every six months. These can be served personally (not by you, by someone else), or by both certified (returned receipt requested) first class mail simultaneously.
If the debtor does not respond or cooperate, within 21 days, you may try to hold the judgment debtor in contempt of court, using a motion to enforce litigant's rights. If the order is granted by the court you must have someone (not you) serve the order on the debtor. Make sure you include a blank information subpoena with a SASE. The order will give the debtor a couple of days to comply. If they do not comply, you may make an ex-parte application for the debtor's arrest.
Also, if a debtor does not reply to your initial information subpoena within 21 days, you may without leave of court serve upon banks non-party information subpoenas.
You may only serve banks that you have a "reasonable suspicion" that the debtor has a bank account at. With leave of court, you may serve a non-party information subpoena to people you suspect the debtor conducts business with (who owes the debtor money) or to their employer.
Another tool you can use is a court Order for Discovery. To obtain this, you submit an ex-parte motion and proposed order to the court. Attached to the order is what you want the debtor or any third party that has knowledge of the debtor's assets, to bring with him/her to the deposition.
The location where the debtor or third party is to be deposed (questioned) needs to be in the county where the debtor or third party either lives or works. If you use a court reporter, anything the person says at the deposition is on the record. The Order for Discovery must be served upon the person at least 10 days before the deposition date.
If the debtor or third party does not show up to the deposition, you may motion the court for an Order to Enforce Litigant's Rights. If the debtor or third party does not comply with the order, you may apply for an Arrest Warrant.
If your judgment is within the Law Division, or docketed, you may proceed within the Law Division's deposition rules which are less strenuous and allows for Written Questions and Oral Examinations. Also in the Law Division, the court can make any appropriate order (An Order For Discovery) in aid of execution. (I.E. Subpoenas, Injunctions, etc.)
In New Jersey the equivalent called the Order For Discovery. It is the title of the order that directs the judgment debtor to report on a date/time for deposition and in possession of requested records. The actual judgment debtor examination is simply a (civil) deposition.
When you enforce your judgment you must file a warrant of satisfaction at the court. New Jersey law does not specify a time when to file the Satisfaction. To avoid trouble, do not wait too long.
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