Everyone knows that suing someone to win a judgment costs money. At the very minimum, the court must get paid and the defendant must be served. Not everyone knows that it also costs more money to attempt to recover the judgment.
In a perfect world, where you were paid in full immediately after you won your judgment, a notary would have to be paid to notarize your satisfaction of judgment. In the real world, post judgment recovery attempts cost real money, and no judgment repayments are guaranteed. Also, not everything you spend trying to recover, can be added to the judgment debt.
This article is my opinion, and not legal advice, based on my experience in California. I am the judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
What costs are recoverable when enforcing a California money judgment? The short answer is the reasonable and necessary costs. The California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) 685.070 shows the statutory items; the costs which the creditor may almost always add, to the amount the judgment debtor owes. There are four statutory cost categories, and statuary means the costs are defined by law, so they cannot be easily challenged:
1) The cost of getting and/or recording a (certified copy of the judgment or an abstract of judgment), with a county recorder.
2) The cost of filing a UCC lien against the debtor’s personal property.
3) The cost of buying a writ of execution and paying the levying officer to serve the writ. Writs are usually served on a bank or employer, by the Sheriff or sometimes by a registered process server. The allowed costs for serving a writ is also mentioned in CCP 685.095.
4) The costs related to scheduling and serving judgment debtor examinations.
California’s CCP 685.070 does not mention the costs of using registered process servers, and this does not address the reality that Sheriffs in some counties require creditors to hire registered process servers. CCP 699.080 does mention that the cost of registered process servers may be added to the amount owed on the judgment.
In general, the further one varies from the normal and expected costs defined in CCP 685.070, the greater the chance that the court, the debtor (or their attorney) will challenge those costs. To get added to the judgment debt, the costs must be recorded on a Memorandum Of Cost within 2 years of when they were paid for. The memorandum copy must be served on the judgment debtor (first class mail is sufficient), to give them ten days to contest your cost claims. If the debtor does not contest the costs, 10 days later the costs are added to the judgment debt. At a hearing, at a court’s discretion, a creditor’s costs can be allowed or denied.
Post-judgment attorney fees cannot be added to a judgment debt, unless there is a prior contract signed by both sides, that says they can, as per CCP 685.040 and CCP 1033.5.