How are money judgments enforced?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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The typical methods employed in enforcing money judgments include:

Voluntary Compliance – Very often a judgment debtor will pay the money owed to a judgment creditor and thus satisfy the money judgment. If the judgment debtor does not pay, the judgment creditor should contact him/her and ask for payment. Sometimes a simple telephone call or a short letter yields results, sometimes a lien or execution is required.

Judgment Lien – A lien is a charge, security or encumbrance on a piece of property. A judgment creditor can place a lien on both the real and personal property of the judgment debtor. When property subject to a lien is sold, either a portion of the proceeds are used to satisfy the outstanding lien or the property is sold subject to the lien.

Execution and Levy– Execution of a money judgment is obtained through a legal process of enforcing the judgment by seizure and subsequent sale of the property owned by a judgment debtor.

Wage Garnishment – a form of execution and levy, a legal process of enforcing a money judgment by directing the employer of a judgment debtor to pay a portion (typically up to 25% for a money judgment or up to 50% pursuant to a order of payment of support) of wages earned by the judgment debtor directly to the judgment creditor.

When a judgment debtor refuses to pay a money judgment, a judgment creditor typically will proceed with both judgment liens and execution to enforce the judgment.

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