Collect your family law judgment

If at the end of your divorce (in your Judgment), the judge ordered your spouse to pay you money or split the money from the sale of something, you will need to collect the money yourself. The court doesn't collect it for you. But, there are court processes you can use to try to collect the money from your spouse's pay or bank account if they don't pay you voluntarily.

These instructions are only for collecting money from your judgment. 

If you are owed spousal support or child support, there are different ways to collect the money.
 

First steps to collect

Typically, you can start to collect the money as soon as your judgment is final

Final means there's a filed Notice of Entry of Judgment (form FL-190). You won't be able to collect if there's a "stay" because your spouse appealed the case or there's another related legal case about the money, like a bankruptcy.

You can try to get them to pay voluntarily

  • Make paying easy for them

    Give them an address to send the payment. Send them a copy of your Judgment so they know what they owe.

  • Accept payments over time or a lump sum (if you want)

    You can agree to accept payments (like weekly or monthly) or a lesser amount of money if they pay you right away. If you agree to accept less money, you will be giving up your right to the full amount they owe.

  • Offer to accept property or suggest ways they can find money to pay

    You could accept property instead (like a car or other items). You could suggest they use their income tax refund, borrow against a 401k, or take out a loan.

  • Write a letter or email that says what happens if they don't pay

    Explain that the amount owed increases by 10% each year (collects interest). Let them know that what's owed can show up on their credit report and that you can collect it from their pay or bank account.

If there's domestic violence in your relationship, 

these options may not be right for you. Talk to a Self-Help Center to find out your options.
 

If they don't pay voluntarily

If your ex-spouse doesn't pay voluntarily, you can use different court processes to collect from their pay or bank accounts, or other property. This can be very time-consuming. You may want to get help from a lawyer.

Basic steps to collect from their paychecks or bank account

1. Find out where they have money

If you don't already know, you will need to find out where they work or keep their money or property. You can get a court order (called an order for appearance and examination) that says that your ex-spouse must come to court to answer questions about their finances.

2. Get a court order for the sheriff to collect

If you know where they work or keep their money, you can use court processes to collect from their pay (wage garnishment) or bank accounts (bank levy). If they own real estate, you can have a lien put on the property. Then, if they ever refinance or sell it, you may get paid.

How to collect 

Renew your judgment

If you want to add interest or costs to what you're owed, you can renew your judgment

A family law judgment for money lasts until it is paid in full or some other way satisfied (like you agree to accept less money). If it's not paid:

  • The amount you're owed collects interest (10% each year)
  • You may spend money trying to collect the money. For example, there are court and sheriff fees if you do a wage garnishment or bank levy.

If you want interest and collection costs added to what's owed, you can renew your judgment. When you renew the judgment, the interests and costs become the new amount owed (the principle). The amount of interest charged is based on the principal amount owed. So, if the principal goes up, so does th interest charged.

  • EXAMPLE How renewing works

    If you have a judgment for $10,000, the yearly interest is $1,000. If you are not paid for 9 years, you would be owed $10,000 plus $9,000 in interest.

    • If you do not renew your judgment, your principal stays at $10,000. The yearly interest stays at $1,000.
    • If you renew after 9 years, the new principal becomes $19,000. The yearly interest, after renewal, would be $1,900.

    Renewing your judgment increased the interest you're owed by $900 more per year than if you had not renewed the judgment.

How to renew your judgment

Within 10 years of the date your judgment was entered: 

1. Fill and file 2 forms:

  • Application for and Renewal of Judgment (form EJ-190)

This tells the court that you want to renew your Judgment and how much interest and costs to add to the total that's owed.

This lets the other side know that you've renewed the Judgment and tells them how to respond if they disagree.

2. Serve your ex-spouse

Your ex-spouse then has 30 days from the day he or she is served with the notice to file a motion to vacate or modify the renewal.

No. A family law judgment does not expire like other types of money judgments. For example, a judgment that someone owes a credit card company money expires after 10 years unless the credit card company renews it. This is not the rule for family law money judgments. It does not expire. You do not have to renew it unless you want to have the interests or costs added.