This is the one question that judgment enforcers hear so often, it makes them sigh. Almost everyone (who has never tried to enforce a judgment) vastly underestimates the time and money it takes to enforce most judgments.
Even in the old days of lots of home equity, and most debtors working at high-paying jobs – judgment enforcement was never cheap, quick, or easy. These days, it is harder than ever to enforce judgments. This article discusses timetables. One must remember that bankruptcy can stop any judgment enforcement.
Here are timetables one can expect when recovering money on a judgment:
The perfect scenario is the judgment debtor finally recognizes they wronged you – when they see that is what a judge has decided – and so they pay you in full. This rarely happens, certainly not often enough to merit holding your breath for. Timetable: zero to two months.
The quickest real-life judgment enforcement happens when the debtor has available assets far in excess of what they owe on your judgment. In such cases a judgment enforcer, or anyone who has studied for long enough, can find a way to free the debtor of enough available assets to pay most or all of the judgment. Better yet, when one knows the law, one may take legal, polite, and firm actions to persuade a debtor to pay voluntarily. Timetable: one to 12 months.
The average debtor does not have a surplus of available assets. The average judgment enforcement is like a chess game, where it takes several attempts to recover the judgment, one chunk at a time, over the long term. Eventually many debtors (having some assets) smell the coffee and eventually settle or pay off the judgment. Timetable: six months to five years.
The worst case debtor is either very poor or a clever fraud. Perhaps they hid their assets or use many names and social security numbers. For well-practiced frauds or very poor debtors, it is a long shot to recover money on a judgment. In the case of the poor debtor, one hopes they will come into money. In the case of a fraud, one hopes they will slip up, or through careful planning and detective work, the fraud’s assets can be found and recovered. Timetable: one to 20 years.
What helps to speed up a judgment recovery is accurate information or hints to the current locations of the debtor’s assets. What helps is knowing where the debtor can be served papers, where they work, where they bank, what their hobbies are, where income sources might be, and who their associates, friends, and partners are.
What to expect? Measure the time to enforce a judgment with a calendar, not a stopwatch. If you enforce it yourself, you will discover that judgment recovery is slowed down by reality, laws, and having to depend on courts, Sheriffs, and process servers – who cannot work as fast as you want them to.
If you use a judgment enforcer, remember they only get paid after they recover your money. They want to enforce the judgment as much as you do. It makes no sense to pester a judgment enforcer.
As frustrating as it may be to have a judgment enforcer not make any progress on recovering your judgment, remember that the lack of progress is almost always because of the debtor. If you demand your judgment back and pick a new judgment enforcer, they may not be able to make any more progress. This reminds me of changing lines at the bank, only to find the line your were in moves faster than the line you switched to.