I am not a lawyer, I am a Judgment Broker. This article is my opinion, based on my experience in California, and laws vary in each state. If you ever need legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
Many judgment debtors owe more people than just you. Some may be already be paying off prior family court or other kinds of judgments, with existing wage garnishments or wage assignments already in place.
In this article, Family Court Judgments (FCJs) may be abbreviated as FCJs, which can be either spousal support, child support, or many other types of equalization judgments coming from the family courts.
Wage levies that result from FCJs are often stronger, and are often a higher-priority than levies from regular civil judgments.
When you garnish a judgment debtor’s wages, you must pay a court and a sheriff, and sometimes a process server, and sometimes also pay an investigator to find the judgment debtor’s employer.
When there is a previous civil or FCJ levy already attached to the judgment debtor’s wages, yours will probably not attach, and the money and time you spent will go down the drain. Most child support judgments never expire.
To prevent wasted time and money, you can contact the local civil sheriff office in the county where the judgment debtor employer’s payroll department is based, and ask if the they already have a wage levy file open for the judgment debtor at their office. The problem is, that most FCJ orders are not execution levies, so the sheriff is usually not involved.
Funds from FCJ wage assignments or levies are paid though the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). In California and possibly other states, the SDU is currently under contract, with the Bank of America and the Department of Child support Services (DCSS).
FCJ wage assignments are sent to the employer within 15 days of the date that the local family support agency finds the employer. The employer must deduct from the judgment debtor’s wages and send the money to the SDU.
How do you find out if a judgment debtor has a current or upcoming FCJ levy on their wages already? Often there is not an easy way to know for sure.
Even if the SDU or their contracted bank, had a phone number that you could call and ask if a judgment debtor was paying off a FCJ, it might be somewhat too close to a GLB (USC 6821) violation to get that information.
One way creditors can find out about FCJ levies against their judgment debtors, is to pull a credit report on them, and check for an open DCSS case. This might be named a variation of “D.A. Child Support Div”. It should show the monthly payment amount being taken (and sometimes, showing how long it has been going on).
A credit report is often a good indicator, that shows how long the judgment debtor has been working at their employer. Credit reports can also show how many months the FCJ payments were made on time, and for how much. If there is a balance (arrearages), it shows that. If the balance is zero, it means the debtor’s payments are current.
Another way to find FCJ actions, is to inspect the family court docket, and examine the court’s file records. If you find a writ, an income withholding order, or a wage assignment, it means the judgment debtor was or is, paying off a FCJ.
A judgment debtor can sometimes pay both a FCJ assignment order and a civil judgment wage levy at the same time. However, both levies combined usually cannot exceed a total of 25% of the judgment debtor’s wages. If the FCJ takes 20%, your levy only gets 5% of the wages.
If you want to try to estimate how much a levy might get you, you need to know where the judgment debtor is working, how much the judgment debtor is making, and how much they pay for FCJ assignments or levies.
Credit reports show the DCSS status of FCJ actions, and you might see joint accounts on the credit report, which usually means a spouse. In some states (in California, see CCP 706.109) the judgment debtor spouse’s wages might be leviable to pay your judgment.
With FCJ payments showing on a credit report, or a good guess, or knowledge about how much the judgment debtor earns, you can calculate whether your wage levy attempt would be worthwhile.