Unfortunately, most Colorado litigants do not realize that winning a lawsuit, whether by default or trial, in many instances is only half the battle. A judgment is no more than a piece of paper and quite commonly requires post-judgment enforcement to render the litigant entitled to the benefits set forth in the judgment. To collect the money, assets, or property you were awarded can only occur in two situations, voluntarily and involuntarily.
The prevailing party can simply ask for payment from the losing party and in some instances, payment or transfer of assets is readily forthcoming. Obviously, this is the most favorable outcome and results in little, if any, post-judgment intervention.
However, in a large number of instances, the debtor is unreasonable and unlikely to be willing to pay a judgment. At this point, a number of post-judgment remedies are available to you. Most self-represented litigants do not realize that a court will not collect your judgment for you. Simply put, you must enforce your rights to collect when it comes to collecting your judgment against an unwilling defendant.
Collecting from unwilling solvent debtor, in a worse case scenario, may be delayed, but generally results in payment, as there are assets available which can be levied upon. In order to facilitate payment, it is not uncommon during negotiations to receive an offer for a lower lump-sum payment. However, if the debtor staunchly refuses, there are a number of available remedies to legally force payment.
What is often not fully appreciated is that collecting a judgment against unwilling litigants can be also complicated by a number of factors, such as (1) the knowledge of the laws of collection by the unwilling defendant, (2) lack of or hiding of assets, (3) federal bankruptcy and state laws concerning unfair debt collections, (4) exempt assets or protected property.
Inherent in not knowing the laws of a particular jurisdiction is the risk that your collection efforts may be in violation of such laws or may be deemed retaliatory, possibly resulting in a judgment being entered against you. Furthermore, judgments can become judgment liens and are enforceable for a specified period of time. For example, a Colorado District Court judgment is valid for a 20 year period from the date of judgment and upon application (by motion), it may be revived for another 20 year period. A Colorado County Court judgment can also be valid for a 20 year period, but must be revived within every six year period. Simply put, sleeping on one’s rights or not properly reviving a judgment can result in the judgment becoming unenforceable and consequently uncollectible. In the event of competing creditors, such as in a bankruptcy context, there is also a possibility that your judgment may be subordinated to a lower level of priority.
Another related and slightly more complicated issue is enforcing out-of-state judgments against Colorado assets or residents of this state.
At Schunk & Associates, we accept local and out-of-state collection cases and employ a variety of legal and practical means to locate and levy upon assets of an unwilling defendant. Such methods involve: post-judgment discovery and/or depositions; asset tracing; garnishing wages; garnishing bank accounts and other assets, such as stocks & bonds; garnishing other personal non-exempt property, such as business equipment; foreclosing on interests of real property, which may include placing a lien on a primary residence or vacant land owned by the defendant; and, filing an independent action to impose a constructive trust on illegally transferred assets originally belonging to the debtor.