When you won your lawsuit to get your judgment, you probably want to recover it as soon as possible. However, sometimes it is best to wait before trying. For most people, a lack of current judgment debtor assets, means they do not get to control how long they must wait before enforcing their judgment. Even if your judgment debtor has available assets, sometimes it makes sense to wait before attempting to recover your judgment.
The reasons to wait before enforcing, include cleaning up names on the judgment, cleaning up the proof of service on a default judgment, and waiting for any appeal periods to pass. 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.
Cleaning up names on the judgment: When suing someone, you are often in a hurry and quickly sue them with the name they first gave you. For example, you sued Joe Debtor, and soon after you got the judgment, you discovered his name was actually Robert Joseph Debtorman. If he keeps his assets in his name of Robert Joseph Debtorman, you should try to get an Affidavit Of Identity (it might be called something different in some states) court approved, to get your judgment amended to reflect the actual name(s) of the judgment debtor. Note this does not add any new parties to the judgment, it only more accurately names the judgment debtor. It is best to wait the for names on the judgment to be accurate, before trying to recover your judgment.
Cleaning up the proof of service on default judgments: This comes up when the judgment debtor was served notice of your lawsuit by publication, or they were sub-served (e.g., their spouse or relative was served), or served by someone who is not a Sheriff, Marshall, or a registered process server. In that case, as soon as the judgment debtor’s assets get seized, they might try to claim they were never served. Even when a judgment debtor is lying, sometimes they can persuade a court they were not served, and you or the original judgment creditor must start over and sue the debtor again.
The way to fix this is, post-judgment, to have some court-related official document (with the judgment case number on it) personally served on the judgment debtor. Be sure to hire a registered process server (or the Sheriff or Marshal). In many states, if you wait six months after having a judgment-related document served on the debtor personally, they can no longer claim they did not know about the judgment. This will not help in every case, because judgments can be vacated for several reasons.
Waiting for the appeal period to pass: Every state has a statute of limitations for filing an appeal to contest a judgment. Often, the time limit to appeal expires in a reasonably short amount of time, sometimes only a couple of weeks. In some states, the appeal period is one year.
Often, there is no reason to enforce a judgment during the appeal period, because if the judgment debtor appeals the judgment, you could lose and have to repay even more than you collected. While waiting for the appeal period to pass, consider not giving any indication that you are trying to recover the judgment. Simply spend that time planning and looking for the judgment debtor’s assets. As soon as the appeal period passes, you can confidently start trying to recover your judgment.