One of the best ways to attempt to recover a judgment is to have the Sheriff or Marshall levy/garnish your judgment debtor’s bank account. This article is based on California, however the concepts here will probably be similar in many states.
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. A successful bank levy depends on three things:
1) That your judgment debtor keeps money in their bank account. If there is little or no money in their account, paying for a levy is usually money lost.
2) Cooperation and performance from your court, Sheriff, and in some places, a registered process server. All of them have paperwork to complete and require payment.
3) The element of surprise. If your debtor learns of your upcoming levy, they will probably empty their bank account. One must pay attention to the laws of their state, to help avoid tipping off their judgment debtor.
In California, when a judgment creditor wants their judgment debtor’s bank account to get levied, usually they must begin by getting a writ of execution, which is written permission from the court to have a Sheriff attempt to levy their judgment debtor’s assets in a particular county.
In California, to get a writ of execution from the court, one usually must provide a completed MC-12 (Memorandum Of Costs) form. If you do not want to include accrued interest on your writ of execution, you do not need a MC-12 form. The MC-12 form is where the creditor claims the interest accrued, and any costs that should be added to the amount of the judgment debt.
To avoid tipping off the judgment debtor to an upcoming bank levy, one should not put costs on a MC-12 form. This is because if costs are included, the debtor must be served a copy of the MC-12 form by mail, giving them a chance to move or hide their money.
Most bank levies do not fully satisfy judgments. After the bank levy process completes, the creditor is free to use another MC-12 form and declare whatever might have been recovered as a credit, interest accrued, and any costs (within 2 years of those costs getting incurred); because the element of surprise will no longer be a factor.
In California, you can claim up to $99.99 on a MC-12 form to get a writ with no waiting period. If the costs are more than $100, the creditor must wait 15 days after the MC-12 is served on the debtor, before the court will issue a writ, as per CCP 685.070.
With costs $100 or more, if the proof of service (POS) by mail on the back/second page of the MC-12 has been filled out and signed by a third-party, that means the debtor has been notified. Then, the debtor has an opportunity to file a Motion to Tax Costs (contest your expenses); if they have kept their mailing address up to date with the court.
Most judgment debtors do not keep their address updated with the court. When you have costs less than $100, if the POS envelope mailed to the debtor’s last-known address bounces, with a post-office “unable to forward” stamp because there is no forwarding order with the post office; this is most likely not your problem.
However, keep that bounce-stamped envelope just in case anyone ever questions you about it later. If your claimed costs are large, especially relative to the amount owed on the judgment; consider finding the debtor’s current address and have the proof of service done for sure, which in certain cases, might mean even having them served personally. Also, waiting six months after personal service of a judgment-related document on the debtor might clean up a weak proof of service on a default judgment. This will not help in every case, because judgments can be vacated for several reasons.
If there are no new costs claimed on your MC-12 form, it does not need to be served on your judgment debtor. On the second/back side of the MC-12 form, I type “(No proof of service required – No costs, interest only – See CCP 685.070)” in the “My Address” area at the top of the page, and sign and date the bottom of the page.
Some court clerks do not fully know the law when it comes to interest-only MC-12 form situations, and will insist on the proof of service getting completed; even if there are no new costs claimed. This problem is often solved by asking for and explaining the situation, to a court clerk supervisor.