Judgments in Florida, Generally
If you have been sued in Florida and you lost your case or failed to respond or appear, it is likely that a judgment was entered against you.
A judgment is a court order that officially and conclusively declares that one party owes a certain amount of money to another party.
In Florida a judgment is NOT an order to pay money. While someone may voluntarily pay if a judgment is owed, it is not as common as people would think. Many judgment creditors in Florida must resort to involuntary collection methods to receive payment from their judgment.
Civil judgments in Florida are governed by Chapter 55 Florida Statutes.
Here is some terminology regarding judgments which will help you understand some of what you might be reading if you are searching out information on your judgment or poring over your own case:
- Judgment creditor – this is the party or parties to whom money is owed as a result of a judgment. Its generally the plaintiff, however, it could possibly be a defendant or defendants. In this sense, the party does not need to have been an actual creditor of the party against whom it has a judgment. It just speaks to who is owed money after a lawsuit.
- Judgment debtor – someone who owes money as a result of a judgment. Like above, it is generally a defendant or defendants, however this is not always the case.
- Execution – This is the process in Florida by which a judgment creditor utilizes processes available under Florida law for non voluntary payment of a judgment.
- Satisfaction – a satisfaction is a document which is signed by the judgment creditor when it intends to release the obligation of the judgment debtor as a result of payment or otherwise.
- Joint and several – this is a term that implies liability for a part AND also for the whole. This means that all parties who are jointly and severally liable are EACH responsible for the whole, not just a percentage.
Judgment Enforcement and Collection in Florida
A judgment is effective as a lien for up to twenty (20) years in Florida. This means that a judgment which is entered against an individual can be enforced for up to 20 years after its entry. This comes as a shock to many people who thought that some of their old debts had “fallen by the wayside” and were no longer an issue for them to deal with.
As you can imagine, a lot can happen in 20 years.
Savvy collection lawyers know that many people will throw their hands up and readily admit owing a debt or fail to answer or appear altogether when they are sued. They also understand that many people who are facing serious financial difficulties generally don't understand the seriousness of a judgment and what remedies it provides the judgment creditor under Florida law.
When a lawsuit results in a money judgment, it matters not what the underlying action was for. All of the same remedies are available to Florida judgment creditors whether the judgment is from a personal injury suit, foreclosure deficiency, debt collection suit, or any other type of civil case.
The following is a list of some of the potential mechanisms a judgment creditor can utilize to recover their money from you under Florida and federal law:
- Wage/Bank garnishment proceedings to recover money directly from your employer or your bank account
- Property liens which can affect your ability to buy and sell property in the state of Florida
- Discovery proceedings including written requests (Fact Information sheets and otherwise) depositions, entry upon land for inspection and numerous other invasive procedures which a judgment creditor can use to discover your assets
- Foreclosure proceedings against real property which you own that is not exempted under Florida law
- Levy proceedings against personal property which you have in the state that is not exempted under Florida or federal law
Just because a judgment has been entered against you doesn't mean that you don't have potential options available to you. Now more than ever, you should reach out to an experienced judgment defense attorney to help you take advantage of all the options available to you under Florida and federal law.
There are a multitude of potential defenses available to you as a judgment debtor depending on when, where, and how the judgment was obtained. There are strict procedural and legal requirements which must be present or the judgment may be compromised or, potentially void. I can assure you that it is not unheard of to discover that corners were cut or that records were not properly made and maintained when reviewing judgment enforcement cases.
I have successfully represented many consumers and businesses who thought that because there was a judgment against them they had no hope of a fair resolution of their case outside of a wage/bank garnishment or a property levy. I pride myself on my experience litigating the types of cases based on my years of experience. Contact me today to find out what I can do for you. You may be surprised to find that you have options that you didn't know existed.
Domestication of Foreign Judgments in Florida
Florida has a specific procedure for the recognition of foreign (out of state or country) judgments which when followed properly allow an out of state judgment to be recognized here in Florida the same as any other judgment in the state.
This means that all of the remedies which are available to a judgment creditor in Florida are available to that judgment creditor once the domestication is complete. In the eyes of a Florida court, a properly domesticated out of state judgment is just as valid and enforceable as any judgment originally entered in Florida.
Chapter 55 Florida Statutes Sections 55.501-55.607 govern Florida's judgment domestication process and must be strictly adhered to in order for the judgment to be properly recognized by Florida Courts.
I have litigated dozens of domestication cases in Florida from inception to final collection. Contact me today to find out if there is anything that I can do to help you exercise your rights under Florida and federal law. Through experience, I have found that many judgment creditors fail to follow the proper procedures to domesticate the judgment or that the judgment which they seek to domesticate in Florida is actually void under Florida law or the law of the state in which the judgment was originally entered.
The Law Office of Alex McClure provides services in Lake Mary, Sanford, Longwood, Deltona, Deland and all of Seminole, Volusia, Orange, Brevard and Lake Counties.