This article summarizes certain Delaware judgment-related laws, which are part of the Delaware Annotated General Statutes and Code Series, sometimes abbreviated as the ANN.
One of many judgment articles: I am a Judgment Broker, not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.
As per Title 6, 2301, Delaware post-judgment interest rates are what is agreed upon in an underlying contract, or 5% over the Federal Reserve discount rate.
Statues of limitation for open accounts and fraud in Delaware is 4 years, written contracts 3 years, and judgments last a long time, they do not expire at ten years, only the right to lein real estate vanishes if no judgment renewal is filed within 10 years. Delaware bank accounts cannot be garnished by average creditors, however wages can be garnished. The Delaware wage garnishment exemptions are 85% of disposable earnings or disposable earnings minus $127.50 weekly, according to schedule.
To be a collection agency in Delaware, no bond is required, with a modest annual license fee. Delaware only charges $40 to domesticate a judgment, using the CF01, CF17, and CF17A forms. Delaware has a rare pro-creditor (Chapter 35) law that can prevent debtors from absconding to other states to avoid paying judgments.
If a judgment gets recovered, the creditor needs to notify the court. The three primary ways to recover judgments in Delaware are to settle them, recover from the debtor’s wages from their employer, or to record a lien (or levy) on their property(s).
To file a lien on a debtor’s Delaware real estate, get and file a certified transcript of the judgment docket entries at the Prothonotary of the Superior Court (or the Justice Of The Peace Court) in the county where the property is. That will create a judgment lien in that court’s county.
If your judgment debtor works in Delaware and their employer is headquartered in Delaware and if there are no garnishments ahead of yours, you can attempt to garnish your debtor’s wages. To garnish a debtor’s wages, use Civil Form # CF17 (Garnishment of wages/property).
If you get Form CF17 online, you should make four copies of the completed form. Keep one copy for your records and take or mail to the court, the original plus three copies with the filing fee. If you get a carbonized copy of Form CF17 from the court, you do not need to make any additional copies, other than a copy for your own records.
After you file the forms, the court will send one to the debtor’s employer, and the employer must file an answer with the court within 20 days. The employer must answer and indicate whether they currently employ the debtor, whether there are any reasons why the debtor’s wages cannot be garnished (for example, another active garnishment); and if not, the debtor’s pay rate.
The amount of wages that may be garnished is limited by both Delaware and Federal exemption laws. In some cases, the debtor’s wages may not be garnished because their disposable income is below the legal limit (Civil Form 34). Probably in every state, and in Delaware also, there can be only one wage garnishment in place. Generally, the first to start a garnishment wins.
Especially if your Delaware debtor owns property or might inherit property, you may be able to recover a judgment by recording a property lien. Assuming there is equity after the debtor’s loans and probable homeowner exemption (currently $125K for a primary residence), if you have time and money; you can try to sell the debtor’s property at a constable’s sale.
To sell a debtor’s property, you would use Civil Forms # 16 (Levy) and 21 (Inventory and Appraisement). Like Form CF17 mentioned above, you may have to make copies of the completed form. In Delaware, the creditor often cannot designate specific property they want the constable to levy (garnish). An exception might be the debtor’s motor vehicle.
Some Delaware debtor items are exempt from levy and sale. Examples include books and family libraries, the family Bible, school and family pictures, clothes of the debtor and their family, tools, implements, and fixtures used in the debtor’s trade or business up to $75, sewing machines used by seamstresses or private families. Also, the head of family exemption of personal property is $500 on top of the items listed above. For more information, see “10 Delaware Codes: 4901-4913”.
After the creditor submits Civil Forms # 16 and 21; and the judgment debtor’s property is not protected by exemptions, the constable will appraise all the possible levy items to ensure that an auction sale will produce sufficient money to pay the judgment.
The constable will let the creditor know if a levy worked or not. Reasons a levy can fail include the debtor filing for bankruptcy, or the debtor has no available property to levy, or the debtor could not be located. If the constable does not find any available assets to levy, they will mail out a “Nulla Bona” return.
What if the debtor’s Delaware property is in the hands of another person or entity? This can be handled with Form 17.
Delaware bank accounts cannot be levied by a common creditor. What about using a turnover order? I am not a lawyer, and my opinion is if funds in a bank are exempted from judgment enforcement, then that exemption might be claimed as a defense to a turnover order attempt.
If you need to find a good judgment expert or a collection lawyer in Delaware, contact a judgment broker, or visit the Delaware State Bar Association website at: www.dsba.org
These are the most popular Delaware banks banks. In some judgment recovery situations, it is necessary to contact the headquarters of the bank.
18410, Citicorp Trust Delaware, National Association, 20 Montchanin Road, Suite 180, Greenville, Delaware 19807, www.citimortgage.com
24944, Brown Brothers Harriman Trust Company of Delaware, National Association, 919 North Market Street Suite 420, Wilmington, Delaware 19801, www.bbh.com
23160, Chase Bank USA, National Association, 201 North Walnut Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801, www.chase.com
22381, Fia Card Services, National Association, 900 Samoset Drive, Newark, Delaware 19713, www.fiacardservices.com