I am not a lawyer, I am a Judgment Broker. This article is my opinion, and not legal advice, based on my experience in California. Laws vary in each state. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
Every year brings in many new laws. Some laws that intend to protect everyone’s privacy, have the side effect of making it more inconvenient for judgment creditors to recover their potential judgment money. In 2012, California, and other states, introduced more laws that restrict the use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) on all public records, including court-related forms and documents. Each State is different, as an example in some Florida courts, the SSNs are filed with the court, but not included on the judgment.
In California, the changes in privacy laws affect judgment enforcement in primarily two ways. The changes began in certain California counties before 2012, and are now in effect in all 58 California counties.
The first change is that abstracts of judgment may no longer list the judgment debtor’s full SSN. This increases the chances that a creditor’s lien at a county recorder might get missed, especially with sneaky judgment debtors that use AKAs.
The second change is that SSNs are no longer permitted on new court documents. Even more than before, creditors must carefully guard the privacy of the SSNs of all judgment debtors.
In 2012, when you filed wage garnishment paperwork, you may notice a new California WG-035 judicial council form, which now mentions confidential SSNs. The WG-035 form is vague about how one should handle and transmit the judgment debtor’s SSN to an employer for service of an Earnings Withholding Order (EWO).
The “form” the WG-035 form hints of about a declaration from the judgment creditor describing the judgment debtor’s social security number. The creditor’s declaration and the WG-035 form, go with forms WG-001, the application for an EWO, and the WG-002, the EWO. What makes it confusing is both the WG-001 and WG-002 forms indicate that the SSN will be on the WG-035 form.
CCP 708.121(a) and 708.125(a) specify that the debtor employee’s SSN “shall” be on the EWO application and the EWO forms, if known. However, the new WG-035 form specifies the SSN has to be on a separate form, that is part of documents required for the EWO paperwork set.
The way to handle this is to include a declaration of the judgment debtor’s SSN and sign and date it, and include that declaration with your WG-035 form.
Give a copy of your declaration and the WG-035 to the Sheriff along with the other documents and their fee. The Sheriff or a registered process server, will serve a copy on the judgment debtor’s employer, and document that the WG-035 form was served on the proof of service form.
In California, (at the time of this article) not all the laws have been updated to indicate the new declaration document. However, the creditor’s declaration and SSN is required for the service of a wage garnishment. California laws still say the forms “shall” contain the SSN, if known, and the WG-035 form is part of the process.
The bottom line is, to protect the judgment debtor’s social security number to the extent possible. Only the Sheriff, (if needed) a registered process server, and the employer sees the SSN, not the court or anyone else.
In California, it is a good idea to include a note in your wage levy documentation package, that the WG-035 form and your declaration, are to be returned to you or the Sheriff, and not to be returned to the court.