When one individual or company -- the "creditor" -- sues for payment of a debt and the court rules in their favor, it issues a judgment. The judgment will require the debtor to pay the amount determined by the court. In the best of circumstances, the debtor will pay the court. In other cases, the creditor will have to take more serious action. Assignment of judgment is one of those options.
Assignment of Judgment
Once a judgment has been levied against someone, they have a set amount of time to pay the judgment, appeal the decision or show proof they are unable to pay the judgment. If this time passes and the person neither pays the judgment nor does any of the previously listed acts, the creditor can return to court and ask for an assignment. This allows the creditor to intercept royalties, commissions and other payments that would normally go to the creditor. In most states, this requires an assignment order and a filing called an "Acknowledgment of Assignment of Judgment." This process is part of state civil procedure and varies by state.
What Can Be Assigned
An assignment of judgment gives the creditor the right to different types of valuable items and payments. Wages can be garnished. Any rents the debtor would have received can be paid to the creditor instead. Royalties from music or written work, insurance policy proceeds, even payment related to a patent or copyright held by the debtor may be assigned. Some types of property can be turned over or sold to satisfy an judgment. If you ask for an assignment order, it is important to know how you would like to be paid.
Enforcing the Judgment
The next step is getting the assignment enforced. After giving notice to the debtor, the court will designate the creditor as the "Assignee of Record." That means the creditor essentially takes the place of the debtor when it comes to receiving commissions, payments or property that could go toward satisfying the judgment.
Sometimes, the court will use a "writ of execution" to enforce a judgment. This is when the judge gives an officer of the court, typically a sheriff, the authority to demand payment or seize and sell property to produce enough proceeds to satisfy the judgment. This is the procedure used when the judgment is for a specific amount of money.
Where to Go for help
The process of getting a judgment assigned is fairly simple if you know where to look for help. Every state has its own Code of Civil Procedure covering assignments, but most involve filing for an assignment of judgment, giving notice to the debtor of the assignment and having the judgment enforced. Many states post their civil codes, with examples of filing forms on their court websites. A call to the Clerk of Court in your state is a quick way to get help and clear up any confusion.