Following a trial or specific motions, the court will often render a judgment. This is a court order that is a decision in the lawsuit. In the event the plaintiff prevails in the case, it specifies how much money to which they are entitled from the defendant. However, because the court cannot collect a money judgment on a plaintiff’s behalf, there is no guarantee that the defendant will pay it voluntarily. Accordingly, a plaintiff may need to pursue other options in order to enforce the money judgment they have been awarded against the defendant.
If the defendant fails or refuses to pay the judgment voluntarily, it may be necessary to contact an enforcement officer — this is typically a Sheriff or a City Marshall, depending on where you live. You can inform the enforcement officer that you wish to request an execution from the court. An execution order allows them to seize money or property from the defendant to ensure the judgment is paid. You will likely have to pay certain fees for the enforcement officer’s services.
Before obtaining an execution order, you will need to know what assets and property the defendant owns. You will need to provide this information to the enforcement officer, along with where the assets and property can be located.
One way of finding a judgment debtor’s assets is by using an information subpoena — this allows you to submit written questions to the defendant and any other parties who may have knowledge regarding the defendant’s income and property — including a bank or employer. A contempt proceeding can be brought for failure to answer the subpoena. An experienced attorney can help you with this process.
Critically, information provided to you by the defendant is often one of the best ways to find their assets. This information can include documentation such as:
Depending on the type of documentation, it may contain bank account information, the name and address of the defendant’s employer, and other details. The enforcement officer can use this information to seize the defendant’s assets to pay the debt.
The defendant’s property can also be used to satisfy a money judgment. You can determine whether the defendant owns a vehicle by inquiring with the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. However, it’s essential to be aware that any loan on the car must be repaid before you receive your money judgment. If the defendant owns real property, it may also be sold to pay the judgment — in these cases, you must first file a transcript of judgment in the county where the defendant’s property is located.
After the judgment has been paid, you must notify the court that the defendant has satisfied their obligation. Notably, while the enforcement officer will file a satisfied execution with the court, they are not responsible for advising the court that the actual judgment has been satisfied. If you fail to inform the court that the judgment has been paid within a certain amount of time, a penalty may be imposed on you.
If you are owed a debt or require assistance enforcing a judgment, contact an experienced attorney to help ensure you secure the monetary award that is rightfully yours.