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How Can I Get the Debtor to Pay for My Costs to Collect the Judgment?

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In small claims court, the judgment creditor may ask the judgment debtor to pay for the costs of collecting the judgment as well as for interest on the judgment. (See California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 116.820(c)) Opens new window


Costs

You normally may ask the debtor to pay for your costs including: 

  • Service of process fees for a Judgment Debtor’s Examination; 
  • Court fees for issuing an Abstract of Judgment, a Writ of Execution, a Notice of Levy, or a Renewal of Judgment; 
  • Fees related to collecting, such as registered process server’s fees and sheriff’s fees; 
  • County Recorder’s office fees to record and index an Abstract of Judgment; and 
  • The Secretary of State fees to file a Notice of Judgment lien on personal property.


Other costs you may have had require a court order to add to the judgment debt: 

  • Service of process fees for a Subpoena 
  • Notary fees 
  • Fees you paid to the court for issuing a bench warrant, and for service of the bench warrant

NOTE 1: The court will usually not allow you to collect: 

    • The time you spent in collecting; 
    • Mileage, travel and parking; 
    • Cost of meals; and 
    • Long distance phone calls, postage, copying, and faxing.

NOTE 2:  You cannot ask for payment of fees in advance.
The only costs allowed are those you have already had, and for which you have a proper receipt. You can’t ask the judgment debtor to pay anticipated costs.

NOTE 3:  You need to inform the court of your costs within 2 years of their payment.
If collection of the judgment debt takes a very long time, file a Memorandum of Costs after Judgment (Form MC-012) every 2 years. See below.


To Recover Your General Costs

Take the following steps.

Step 1. Get and fill out one court form: 

  • Memorandum of Costs after Judgment, Acknowledgement of Credit, and Declaration of Accrued Interest (Form MC-012) Opens new window

(Form MC-012 includes a list of the general costs)

Make at least 2 copies of the form – one to serve on the judgment debtor, and one copy for your own files.


Step 2.
Serve Opens new window a copy of the Memorandum of Costs (Form MC-012) on the judgment debtor(s).

You can not serve this Memorandum yourself.  Ask an adult not involved in the case to serve the papers for you.  Your server may use mail or personal service.

Have your server complete the Proof of Service on the back of Form MC-012.


Step 3.
 File Opens new window the original Memorandum of Costs (Form MC-012) with the court.  There is no fee.
 

The judgment debtor has time to object to your Memorandum of Costs: 10 days if they were served in person; 15 days if they were served by mail.

If the debtor objects, she or he will file a Motion to Tax Costs and you will be notified if there is a court hearing about your costs.


To Ask for a Court Order to Recover Unusual Costs 

(Form MC-012 has a list of these)

You can ask for a court order to include the costs: 

  • At the hearing on Order of Examination of the Debtor.

You may ask the court to approve the fees either before or after the examination.  Be sure to take receipts with you to court of what you have paid.


If you did not ask for fees at that hearing, take the following steps:

Step 1. Get and fill out 2 court forms: 

  • Request for Court Order and Answer (Form SC-105Opens new window and 
  • Order on Request for Court Order and Answer (Form SC-105A) Opens new window

 Make at least 2 copies of both forms and the receipts you are attaching to Form SC-105 – one copy to be sent to the judgment debtor and one copy for your own files. (Keep the original receipts in your own files. Give the court copies.)


Step 2. File the forms, with the copies of your receipts, with the court.

The court clerk will notify the debtor of your request by mail.
 

The judgment debtor has time to object to your Request.


If the debtor objects, she or he will file a Motion to Tax Costs and you will be notified if there is a court hearing about your costs.



Once you have an Order from the court that allows you to add these costs, include them in the Memorandum of Costs (Form MC-012).


Collecting Your Costs

If you are using a levying officer Opens new window (such as the Office of the Sheriff) to help collect the judgment debt, the levying officer may add to the amount being collected: 

  • The court fee for issuing the Writ of Execution (and Earnings Withholding Order, if appropriate) 
  • Interest due on the judgment; and 
  • The costs the levying agent charges.

(See California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 685.050) Opens new window


To have the agent collect additional costs, file a certified copy Opens new window of the Memorandum of Costs with the levying agent -- after time has passed for the debtor to object (or after the hearing, if the court allows your costs). 

  • If the Writ of Execution (or Wage Garnishment) you filed with the levying agent is still valid, the levying officer will collect the amount in the Memorandum of Costs and interest before returning the Writ to the court. The levying agent will give you the amount it collected. 
  • If the Writ of Execution (or Wage Garnishment) is closed (returned to the court by the levying agent), you will have to get a new Writ of Execution from the court to have the levying agent collect the costs due.

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