I am not a lawyer, I am a Judgment and Collections 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.
What if your judgment debtor does not have a regular wage job, and gets paid by customers, relatives, renters or tenants, or most anyone else?
An assignment order might be the right (although paperwork intensive) way to try to satisfy your judgment. This article covers Assignment Orders (AOs) in California. It is very important to know your state laws, and if and how assignment orders are allowed.
Assignment orders are (noticed motion) court orders that require a new hearing, and must be served on the other parties. AOs may be able to capture most kinds of (current and future) non-wage income streams.
Because AOs are lawful alternatives to conventional levies, you do not (in California) need to get a writ of execution. Unlike regular levies, the money often gets turned over directly to you.
In some places, the court may require the sheriff to be the levying officer. If that is the case, you will need to have a registered process server open a sheriff levy file, and then have the AO served on the parties, and then file the proofs of service with the sheriff.
Assignment orders can capture most distributions, commissions, and almost any kind of K-1 income. If approved by a court, an AO instructs someone that owes money to your judgment debtor, to pay you instead of the judgment debtor.
Assignment orders are most useful when a debtor receives (non-exempt and non-retirement-based) income. Assignment orders may work, even when the debtor claims they are poor, because income is income. (Most truly poor debtors do not have income streams.)
Assignment orders can last as long as it takes to satisfy the judgment. Like most court orders and judgments, nothing is guaranteed. The judgment debtor could file for bankruptcy protection. Other things may happen to thwart any enforcement action or strategy.
In theory, assignment orders for non-exempt income, can ask for all of the income, not just 25% of the income, as most wage levies (garnishments) can reach.
If the judgment is small, or the debtor is rich, ask for 50-100%. If the judge does not think your proposed order is reasonable, compromise and aim for 25%. (Because CCP 708.510-f seems to be very similar to CCP 706.050.)
If the debtor is not rich, it may be smarter to ask for a percentage, instead of all of their income stream. In judgment enforcement, being too aggressive could increase the chance that the judgment debtor will file for bankruptcy protection.
Usually, judges do not rubber-stamp approvals on assignment orders for creditors. When the creditor clearly shows a synopsis of why an assignment order is appropriate, then a judge may approve their proposed order.
You could document why you have no other reasonable way to enforce the judgment. You could also document any prior court-endorsed expenses and attempts that did not satisfy the judgment.
Assignment orders can also be used to reach income originating from other judgments, when your debtor is the creditor. An AO can order the debtor of your debtor to pay you instead of them (or the sheriff). Again, consider asking for a percentage.
The first step for any AO is learning who is paying your judgment debtor. A debtor exam, could subpoena enough judgment debtor documentation and information, to learn who to serve assignment orders to. Some debtors will pay, when their clients call them, and ask what is going on?
Assignment orders can be general, and not list specific names. They can say "25% of all monies due to the judgment debtor from clients he performs accounting services for". Then, you can serve the assignment order on whoever pays the debtor, including any of their new clients you later discover, after the assignment order is issued.
Another general example would be "The tenant residing at 22 First Street will pay you". That way, if the tenant moves and someone new moves in, you can have the same assignment order served on the new tenant. If the judge will not allow a generic order, you can find out who is renting, one legal way or another.
Sometimes, after being served an assignment order, the third parties still pay the judgment debtor instead of you. Even if they mistakenly pay the judgment debtor, they still owe you that payment.
It is good practice to get certified copies of the AO, to quickly serve on parties and/or their lawyers, so they cannot claim they did not believe it to be genuine.
As with any courts hearings - with AOs; obeying court rules, state laws, and a substantial paperwork load is required.
Often, 5-6 parts (usually in 5-6 documents) are required. For example, an Assignment Order, (an optional) Restraining Order, a Memorandum of Points and Authorities, a Motion, a Notice of Motion (or Entry of Order), and Proofs Of Service, that are filed with the court.
The Notice of Motion (Entry of Order) and the Motion (Order) are sometimes combined into one document. You need to make several copies of all documents, schedule a hearing date at the court, and have the judgment debtor served everything.
In California, CCP 708.510 specifies the debtor can be served by mail. Bring the proof of service to the court, and appear at the court hearing.
If your order is granted, serve a copy of the order on the judgment debtor by mail, and the parties that will be paying you by mail first. If they do not respond, contact them politely, and if necessary, have them re-served personally.
Please consult with a lawyer when you do your first assignment order.