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Who Owns Your Judgment?
This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
If your debtor is poor, getting your judgment back is not so important. Assuming your debtor might have some income or assets, or may get some in the future, what should you do if the judgment enforcer filed the document at the court and now owns your judgment? While you could take a chance and do otherwise, the best policy starts with making several attempts to contact the judgment enforcer. Perhaps email, phone, and mail certified letters to them. If those all fail, you might want to consider a legal action to get your judgment back.
Be aware that after you sign and return a judgment enforcer's purchase contract and the notarized assignment of your judgment, both of those documents could be used to determine who owns your judgment. However, for practical purposes, if the judgment enforcer did not file the assignment of judgment at the court, you still own your judgment. However technically, even if your assignment of judgment has not been filed with the court, the judgment enforcer might legally still own your judgment because of the mutually signed purchase contract.
For anyone besides the original judgment creditor: If a judgment assignment is not filed at the court; instead of the power of court orders, there will only be the usually much weaker strategies of calling and mailing the debtor (obeying all laws) to ask them to pay. To enforce a judgment through the court or to satisfy the judgment, the judgment assignment must first be filed at the court.
Court clerks decide who owns a judgment based on whether any judgment assignments have been filed, and that sure makes sense to me. However, most experts believe the legal right to own a judgment is within the purchase contract. Most experts believe if there is a purchase contract executed (signed) by both parties (the judgment enforcer and the original creditor), then that purchase contract is valid; whether or not the judgment assignment is filed with the court.
The assignee's (enforcers) rights are somewhat special; and original judgment owner creditors can choose whether or not to sit on their rights, or to pursue collection or litigation. Even if the assignee enforcer fails to pursue collection, the assignor (usually the original judgment creditor) does not have the right to interfere.
Unless a state law requires it, filing or recording an assignment is not mandatory. Filing an assignment of judgment with the court is not a constructive notice to the judgment debtor.
Notice of a judgment ownership change is covered by the Uniform Commercial Code when the judgment debtor receives notice that the judgment against them has been assigned and that in the future, payments are to be made to the assignee (the new judgment owner). After receiving notice of the ownership change (the assignment of the judgment against them), the debtor is not supposed to pay anybody other than the assignee, to satisfy the judgment against them.
Sometimes, certain available assets of the judgment debtor are known; and after filing the assignment of judgment at the court, one can attempt to have their available assets levied without any prior notice to them.
In situations where the judgment debtor's assets are unknown or hidden, quickly noticing the judgment debtor about who now owns the judgment is not as important, as noticing the debtor might make them hide their assets. Almost always, both noticing the debtor and filing the assignment, should be done quickly; because skipping either can open the door to hassles later. Some judgment enforcers do not file the assignment of judgment at the court or notice the debtor until they run a credit report on the judgment debtor. If the credit report is bad, they return the judgment to the original judgment creditor.
In theory, an acknowledgment of assignment of a judgment is similar to a title document. It transfers all rights, title, and interests in the judgment. This means it does not need to be accepted by anyone because it is not a contract. However, in certain courts in California, court clerks insist that incoming assignees of record for a judgment sign the acknowledgement of assignment with words similar to "I accept this assignment", signed and dated by the new creditor.
That does not make sense to me, because who would assign their judgment to someone that does not want it? Also, there is no location on an assignment document for anyone other than the grantor/assignor/original judgment creditor, to sign anything. Only the signature of the assignor must be acknowledged before a notary public. The laws say nothing about anyone else needing to sign anything. However, on a minor matter such as this; it probably makes more sense to spend a minute making the court clerk happy, than to fight any unusual policies.
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