Monday, May 26, 2014

Marital And Family Law Final Money Judgement: Is It Worth The Paper It Is Printed On?

By Eliane I. Probasco and Christine L. Derr

Success! You just secured a final money judgment for your client. Now what? Is that final money judgment worth the paper it was printed on? It is, if you know what to do with it.

Record the judgment against real property.

A judgment becomes a lien against real property when a certified copy is recorded in the county in which the property is located. The recorded judgment must contain the creditor’s address or be accompanied by an affidavit stating the address. Fla. Stat. § 55.10(1); Butler v. Butler, 870 So. 2d 239 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004). The judgment shall be a lien in that county for an initial period of 10 years from the date of the recording. Fla. Stat. § 55.10(1). After the initial period of 10 years, the lien may be extended for an additional period of 10 years by re-recording a certified copy of the judgment prior to the expiration of the lien and by simultaneously recording an affidavit with the current address of the person who has a lien as a result of the judgment, order, or decree. Fla. Stat. § 55.10(2). However, “no judgment, order, or decree of any court shall be a lien upon real or personal property within the state after the expiration of 20 years from the date of the entry of such judgment.” Fla. Stat. §§ 55.081. It may take some time to get paid from this type of lien, but it might be just enough to get the debtor to negotiate a payoff of the judgment. 

Establish a lien against personal property.

To establish a judgment as a lien against personal property, a judgment lien certificate must be filed with the Department of State. Fla. Stat. §§ 55.202, 55.203. An execution lien attaches to personal property, including pending lawsuits and workers’ compensation settlements. Id.; Blackman v. State, Dept. of Revenue, 704 So. 2d 1102 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997); Dept. of Revenue ex rel. Springer v. Springer, 800 So. 2d 700 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001). A duly filed lien lapses after five years. Fla. Stat. § 55.204(1). However, liens securing child support are effective for 20 years. Fla. Stat. § 55.204(2). If the debtor in your case is particularly fond of his or her “stuff,” this may get his or her attention.   

Take a deposition in aid of execution. 

Rule 1.560 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party can obtain discovery in aid of execution. The judgment creditor can request an order requiring the judgment debtor to complete the fact information sheet in form 1.977.  Fla. R. Civ. P. Rule 1.560(b). Additionally, the judgment creditor may take depositions or request the production of documents in aid of execution. Unlike in family court, in some circumstances, the court can require the debtor to supply financial information in form 1.977 about the debtor’s spouse. Fla. R. Civ. P. Rule 1.560 (d).

These are only a few ways to collect on a final money judgment, but it is definitely worth pursuing.

Note: The entry of a judgment for arrearages for child support, alimony, or attorney's fees and costs does not preclude a subsequent contempt proceeding or certification of a IV-D case for intercept, by the United States Internal Revenue Service, for failure of an obligor to pay the child support, alimony, attorney's fees, or costs for which the judgment was entered.  Fla. Stat. § 61.17(3).