DEFINITION of 'Charging Order'

A court-authorized right granted to a judgment creditor to attach distributions made from a business entity, such as a limited partnership (LP) or limited liability company (LLC), to a debtor who is a partner of the business entity.

The charging order is usually limited to the dollar amount of the judgment and is akin to a garnishment of wages or income. It does not give the creditor management rights in the entity, nor can the creditor interfere in the management of the entity to which the debtor is a partner/member.

BREAKING DOWN 'Charging Order'

There are some states that do not limit creditors to a charging order to satisfy their claim. These states, based on varying criteria and circumstances, allow the creditor to foreclose on the interest of the debtor in the investment-based entity. In essence, the creditor can force the liquidation of the entity in order to satisfy the claim against the debtor.

In particular, a debtor's interest in a single-member LLC may be foreclosed upon in addition to the grant of a charging order. The reasoning is that there are no other non-debtor members whose interests need be protected; therefore, the entity can be liquidated and the proceeds used to satisfy the creditor's judgment claim.

Charging order limitations, in the states that have them, such as California, are a good way to protect partnership assets. They are also common in the U.K.

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