Dear Rich: I won a small claims judgement for unpaid writing services a few years ago. Backstory: I signed a contract as a freelancer to write four articles for a national music magazine and to be paid a sum of money. All contracts were signed by the national magazine and myself before I started the work and at the time of being published. I won by default when the magazine did not show up for small claims court. Now I have a judgment I am unable to enforce because I have no info regarding the company’s assets (where they bank their money, etc). Since it is a company and not an individual I am suing, how can I track down their assets in order to put a lien on them so I can receive what they owe me? PS: I am owed $800. Is it worth pursuing or will this cost me more in the long run to track them down? They claimed bankruptcy the same year they did not pay me but are still publishing and selling copies of their magazine on newsstands and worldwide. Should I fight for my money or give up?
If the Dear Rich Staff was in your position, we’d probably give up on the $800.
Chapter 11. One hurdle is the bankruptcy. If the judgment were incurred prior to the filing of the bankruptcy, it’s going to be tricky (maybe impossible) to enforce. We’re guessing that judgments and debts like yours (unsecured creditors) were scrubbed when the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Even if we’re wrong…. Absent the bankruptcy, it’s sometimes cost-prohibitive to enforce a debt of less than a thousand dollars. The good news is that you have plenty of time — in some states up to 20 years — to enforce a judgment (statutes vary). You can track down a business’s assets using online services. If you’re handling it without an attorney, you’ll need to do paperwork — for example, maybe file an Abstract of Judgment — depending on the state law where the judgment is enforced.