What is a money judgment?
A money judgment is a court order that awards the winning party in a lawsuit a sum of money. There is a myriad of reasons a court awards money, such as unpaid rent or goods, medicals bills, to compensate for poorly done or incomplete services, attorney’s fees, equitable distribution of assets, and so on.
What is a judgment debtor?
A judgment debtor is the losing party in a lawsuit who is ordered to pay money to the winning party.
What is a judgment creditor?
A judgment creditor is the winning party that is awarded a monetary amount by the court.
For how long is a money judgment enforceable?
20 years. Fla. Stat. §95.11(1).
When is the best time to enforce a money judgment?
Immediately. If you wait, enforcement becomes a practical problem as the judgment debtor can move or skip town, making it difficult to find them and enforce the judgment. If you have a judgment and you are seeking to enforce it, contact the Horton Law Group, P.A. to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a qualified member of our team.
How do I enforce/collect a money judgment?
Collecting a money judgment is highly dependent on your knowledge of the judgment debtor’s assets. Depending on what you know, you can try to place a lien on the judgment debtor’s personal or real property and have it sold (execution),or obtain a writ of garnishment, or engage in other legal proceedings. Fla. R. Civ. P. Rule 1.570(a); Fla. Stat. §77.01.
How do I place a lien on the judgment debtor’s real property?
You must record a certified copy of the final judgment in the courthouse of the county in which the judgment debtor owns property. Fla. Stat. §55.10. You can buy a certified copy of the final judgment from the courthouse where your case was heard at the appropriate clerk’s office. Recording the final judgment requires another fee.
The recorded certified copy is a lien for 10 years on real property. In order to renew your lien, you must record another certified copy in the six months before the lien expires.
If the judgment debtor later tries to sell this property, he or she will not be able to give good title to a buyer unless the recorded judgment is satisfied or paid in full.
How do I place a lien on the judgment debtor’s personal property?
You must fill out a Judgment Lien Certificate and record it with the Florida Department of State by mailing the document with payment or filing online. This is also how your priority is determined (where you stand in line compared to other creditors). If someone else filed their judgment before you filed yours, they must be paid from any sale of property before you.
The lien lapses after 5 years. In order to renew your lien, you must record another certified copy in the six months before the lien expires.
What is levy and execution?
Levy is the process of seizing a judgment debtor’s property to pay the judgment debt. In Florida, the sheriff’s department levies the property. The sheriff’s department sells the levied property in order to pay the creditor. The process of selling the seized property and paying the creditor is called execution.
What types of property can and cannot be levied by the sheriff?
The sheriff’s department can seize:
- Personal property: movable things (e.g., cars, horses, boats, furniture, jewelry) owned by the debtor.
- Real property: land and buildings owned by the debtor. Fla. Stat. §56.061.
The sheriff’s department cannot seize:
- An individual’s home or homestead.
- Any property that is leased or rented by the judgment debtor.
- Exemptions: An individual may choose to exempt one motor vehicle worth $1,000 or less; and one additional personal property item worth $1,000 or less. Corporations and partnerships do not have any exemptions. Fla. Stat. §222.25
How do I get the sheriff to levy personal property?
First you must locate property—in Florida. The sheriff’s department will not locate the property for you. Once you have located the property the sheriff can seize, you take your judgment to the Clerk of Court that originally issued your judgment and ask for a document called a “Writ of Execution.” Fla.R.Civ.P. Form 1.914(a). This tells the sheriff to seize property of the judgment debtor to satisfy your judgment. You must also draft written instructions for the sheriff, called “Instructions for Levy”, describing the property and where it is located. Next, you deliver the Writ, Instructions for Levy, and a deposit to cover fees and costs to the sheriff’s department in the county where the debtor’s property is located. You will get your deposit back if the execution is successful.
What happens once the personal property is levied?
The sheriff’s department will sell the property at a public auction. The property will be sold to the highest bidder for cash in hand. Flagship State Bank of Jacksonville v. Carantzas, 352 So. 2d 1259, 1262 (Fla. 1st DCA 1977). You may bid on the property.
What are the procedural requirements to have levied personal property sold?
Before the property can be sold, you have to check the Department of State’s internet website at www.sunbiz.org to see if there are any judgment liens filed under the name of the Judgment Debtor. You must also check for creditors who have filed UCC security interests in the name of the Judgment Debtor at www.floridaucc.com. You must notify all of these people of the date, time, and place of the sale. You then give the sheriff’s department a signed affidavit containing all the information you found of any judgment lien certificates filed against the Judgment Debtor. Once the notices have been sent, the sale must be properly advertised in a local newspaper. Fla. Stat. §56.21. Fla. Stat. §56.27(4).
- If the levied personal property is sold, how is the money distributed?
The sheriff’s department will distribute the money in the following order:
- The sheriff’s department will deduct their costs.
- If the property sale covers those costs, you will get your deposit back.
- The sheriff pays you $500 for your costs, regardless of the amount you actually spent.
- The sheriff’s office pays all of the creditors in the order their judgment liens were filed.
- If the sheriff’s department disburses all of the money before getting to you, you will not receive any payment.
- If there are no other judgment liens against the debtor, you will be paid first.
- Remaining funds will be returned to the debtor. Fla. Stat. §56.27.
How do I satisfy my money judgment from a debtor’s wages or funds in a bank account?
You must obtain a Writ of Garnishment. The Writ of Garnishment enables the judgment creditor to intercept money being paid to the judgment debtor by third parties. The garnishee is the person, company, or bank that owes the judgment debtor money.
In the case where the judgment was issued, file a Motion stating the amount of the judgment, describing the property sought to satisfy the judgment, and requesting that a Writ of Garnishment be issued. Fla. Stat. §77.03. The Motion must be accompanied by an affidavit that avers that the money or other thing held by the garnishee subject to commands of writ is not due for personal labor or services of head of family residing in state. Virginia Mirror Co. v. Hall, App. 2 Dist., 181 So.2d 6 (1965).
The Writ itself must require the garnishee to serve an answer on the plaintiff within 20 days after service of the writ stating describing the garnishee’s indebtedness to the debtor, among other things. Fla. Stat. §77.04; Fla.R.Civ.P. Form 1.907(a). The language in a Continuing Writ of Garnishment against Salary or Wages differs and requires the garnishee to serve an answer stating whether the garnishee is the employer of the debtor and specify the periods of payment, among other things. Fla. Stat. §77.0305; Fla.R.Civ.P. Form 1.907(b). Take the completed Writ of Garnishment to the Clerk’s office and request that they issue the Writ. There is a fee and a deposit required.
The Writ must be served on the garnishee. Service of the writ creates a lien in or upon any such debts or property at the time of service or at the time such debts or property come into the garnishee’s possession or control. Fla. Stat. §77.06. The amount of litigation that follows to get a Garnishment Judgment depends on whether the garnishee and debtor dispute the writ.
A Writ of Garnishment can be issued prior to obtaining a judgment as well. Fla. Stat. §77.031.
Certain income is exempt from garnishment, including: Head of family wages, Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income benefits, Public assistance (welfare), Workers’ Compensation, Reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation, Veterans’ benefits, Retirement or profit-sharing benefits or pension money, Life insurance benefits or cash surrender value of a life insurance policy or proceeds of annuity contract, Disability income benefits, and Prepaid College Trust Fund or Medical Savings Account. Fla. Stat. §77.041. Fla. Stat. §222.11.
How can I find a judgment debtor’s assets?
This is fairly straightforward while a case is still open.
A judgment creditor may obtain discovery from any person, including the judgment debtor, in the manner provided by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, which includes depositions, interrogatories, and production of documents. Fla. R. Civ. P. Rule 1.560(a).
In addition to other discovery methods, the court, at the request of the judgment creditor, can order the judgment debtor to complete a form providing detailed demographic and financial information. Failure to obey the order may be considered contempt of court. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560(b).
After a case is closed, finding a judgment debtor’s assets is still feasible as long as you know where the judgment debtor lives (or can be found). That is because it requires initiating supplementary proceedings that require service on the judgment debtor. Fla. Stat. §56.30. The judgment creditor may file a motion and an affidavit about the unsatisfied judgment, the court then issues a Notice to Appear, and that Notice to appear must be served on the judgment debtor. Id. The judgment creditor then has the opportunity to engage in discovery again. Fla. Stat. §56.30.
If it’s been many years since you got the money judgment and you have no idea where the judgment debtor is, before you can enforce your money judgment, you face the unfortunate practical obstacle of locating the debtor.
Why Hire the Horton Law Group, P.A?
The principal partner at the Horton Law Group, P.A. – Attorney, Sommer C. Horton has been litigating cases for 20 years. She is an experienced and aggressive estate litigator. She is highly regarded for her creativeness, strategic judgment and her uncanny ability to deliver persuasive legal arguments in the courtroom. She has a tremendous skill for being an aggressive advocate for her clients, while being one who understands and appreciates how trying litigation can be, thus, she is extremely sensitive to her clients’ needs.
Ms. Horton is passionate about the law and believes in seeking justice for her clients in an ethical and economic manner. Ms. Horton fights for each and every one of her clients – every step of the way. Ms. Horton will spend time with you to make sure you understand the law, understand your rights and she will draft your estate plans for you so that you and your family are protected. In addition, she can assist you with your business planning, estate planning and asset protection needs too.
The Horton Law Firm, PA is a boutique civil litigation law firm that only takes on a limited number of cases so that personal attention can be given to every client. Make the right call – schedule a free 30-minute consultation with Ms. Horton. You can make an appointment by calling 561-299-0018 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.