Enforcing a judgment is largely a procedural endeavor. When a judgment is entered, the law bestows upon the creditor certain procedural powers that can be used not only against the debtor, but against people and entities associated with the debtor as well. One tool in a creditor’s arsenal that can be very effective in enforcing a judgment is known colloquially as a turnover proceeding.
In a turnover proceeding, a judgment creditor petitions the court to order a third party to ‘turn over’ property to the creditor that is in the possession of the third party but which belongs to the debtor. This can be money that the third party owes to the debtor, or property that the third party is holding on behalf of the debtor.
Essentially, if Company A owes money to the judgment debtor, or is holding the debtor’s property, the creditor initiates a turnover proceeding to ask the court to direct Company A to turn the money or property over to the creditor, directly rather than have Company A pay the debtor what it owes. This means that the petition is brought by the creditor against Company A, not the debtor, although the debtor is entitled to notice of the proceeding.
Some examples in which a creditor may ask for a turnover proceeding include:
- A debtor sends an invoice to a client for services rendered, which the client has not yet paid. The creditor can ask the court for a turnover order requiring the client to pay the balance of the invoice directly to the creditor.
- A creditor learns that the debtor has a safe deposit box at a bank. The court can order the bank to turn over the contents of the safe deposit box (cash, jewelry, etc.) to the creditor, up to an amount sufficient to satisfy the judgment (see Using the Contents of a Safe Deposit Box to Satisfy a Judgment). The same procedure can be used to take money out of the debtor’s bank account.
- An individual debtor owns shares of a closely held corporation. The creditor can seek an order requiring the corporation to sell the individual debtor’s shares and turn over the proceeds from the sale to the creditor (see What to Do When a Debtor’s Assets Are Tied Up in a Corporation). Note that a creditor’s rights to enforce a judgment against an individual debtor’s membership interest in an LLC is different than as to shares of a corporation; we’ll address those differences in a future post.
Turnover proceedings are considered ‘special proceedings’ under the CPLR. Creditors looking to file a turnover proceeding should seek the assistance of an experienced attorney who can navigate the specific procedures that must be followed in order to effectively and efficiently satisfy the judgment.
To learn more about how Katz Melinger can help you collect, contact us today.
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