Obtaining a judgment against a party isn't the same thing as collecting that judgment. Post-judgment legal procedures are often required prior to any collection. You may find it necessary to retain an attorney to assist you in post-judgment procedures.
Even if you win your suit, don't expect to receive payment from the defendant in court at the trial. If you're fortunate, the defendant will voluntarily pay what the judgment states. If the defendant doesn't pay you, there are options available for collecting the money owed. However, you must figure out a way to collect your money damages without the court's assistance.
Some of your options are:
- Garnishment of wages
- Judgment lien on personal property
- Judgment lien on real property
- Execution of judgment
Garnishment of Wages
Garnishment of wages is where the money owed can be taken from the person's paycheck. You should seek the services of an attorney if you are seeking garnishment of the defendant's wages.
Judgment Lien on Personal Property
All of the judgment debtor's personal property located in Florida is subject to a judgment lien. You will need to file a judgment lien certificate with the Department of State. A judgment lien certificate can be downloaded from the Department of State's Web site or you can request that a certificate be mailed to you. After you've completed the certificate, you can file it electronically or mail it to the Department of State. There's a filing fee that must be paid at the time you file the judgment lien certificate.
Judgment liens on personal property that are filed with the Department of State are valid for five years. After five years you can file again and get another judgment lien.
Judgment Lien on Real Property
Once you have been awarded a judgment, you can record a certified copy of your judgment in the official records of the clerk's office in the county where the property is located. This will create a lien against any real estate the defendant owns or might acquire for the next 20 years in the county where the judgment is recorded. Recording can be done in any county in Florida where the defendant lives or owns property.
A person's home can't be seized, as homestead property is exempt. However, the defendant will have to pay the amount owed in the judgment before selling any property. After filing, keep the clerk informed of your address in case money to which you are entitled becomes available.
Judgment liens on real property that are recorded in the Official Records of the Clerk's Office are valid for ten years, and you can re-record the lien for another ten years.
Execution of Judgment
After you have a judgment lien on property, you may have the sheriff seize the judgment debtor's nonexempt property if the judgment debtor hasn't paid the judgment. Levy refers to the sheriff's seizing the property.
Once you have identified property the debtor owns, you must take your judgment to the clerk's office in the county where the judgment was issued and ask for a writ of execution. The writ tells the sheriff to seize the judgment debtor's property to satisfy the judgment. Once you have the writ, you must take it to the sheriff in the county where the property is located. You must also provide the sheriff with instructions for levy that describe the property and identify where the property is located.
Once the property has been levied, the sheriff will sell it and pay you from the proceeds. This process is known as the execution of judgment.
There are many laws concerning what the sheriff may or may not take to sell so you may want to discuss this with a lawyer.
Cost of Sheriff Levy
You will be required to deposit money to pay the sheriff's fees and costs. Your deposit will be returned if the execution is successful. Check with the sheriff in the county where the property is located for the amount of the deposit required.
Satisfaction of Judgment
After the defendant pays the full amount of the judgment and interest from the date of entry of the judgment, the plaintiff needs to fill out and record a satisfaction of judgment form acknowledging full payment. Within 60 days of receiving full payment of the judgment, the recorded satisfaction must be sent to the person who made the payment.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can an attorney help me collect a judgment?
- How can I locate a debtor and his property?
- What can I do if the debtor has no income but has assets and refuses to pay?