Do you need help collecting your judgment?

If your judgment is collectable, I will do it. I have more than 30 years of experience domesticating, enforcing and collecting judgments.I will give you my honest and frank opinion as to the collectability of your judgment. If I accept your case on a contingency agreement, I am paid only if I am able to collect on your judgment. I know a few "tricks of the trade" for collecting from deadbeat debtors.

How much do I charge?

I work on a contingency basis. Depending upon your particular situation (i.e., the age of the judgment, the age of the debtor, what the judgment was for, whether the debtor is married or single, whether the debtor has minor children, the debtor’s financial situation, etc.), I charge between 20% to 40% of any recovery or I may tell you that I cannot help you collect. It depends. I would need to see the judgment first and do a background investigation before I can tell you the terms of collection.

Do you know that there a limited time to enforce your judgment?

There is a 20-year statute of limitations on Florida judgments. However, many attorneys do not know that you can extend the term of your judgment for another 20 years provided you file the appropriate paperwork just prior to the 20-year expiration.

Do you know the difference between real property and personal property?

Land and buildings are called real property. Movable things, like cars, boats, jewelry, and furniture etc. are called personal property.

How come you read that the judgment is only valid for 5 years or 10 years? What’s that about?

The article is referring to priority of judgments, not the validity of the judgment.

For real property, any certified judgment recorded on or after July 1, 1994 becomes a lien on real property for 10 years. It will have priority over subsequently recorded judgments for purposes of levy. You may re-record your judgment prior to the expiration of the initial 10-year term and obtain another 10 years of priority on that real property. If timely extended, the judgment priority position is unaffected. If the original judgment lapses without re-recording, the judgment ceases to exist as a lien on that real property: However the overall validity of the judgment is not affected. The judgment creditor may re-record the judgment at a later time creating a lien on that real property; however, this new judgment will not have the same priority as the previous lapsed judgment. In other words, the judgment will only have priority over any subsequent liens and will only be effective as to property held by the debtor at the time the new judgment is created.

For personal property, once a judgment is filed with theFlorida Department of State, the State issues a judgment lien certificate which is initially valid for 5 years, meaning that your judgment has priority overall subsequent creditors if you wish to levy upon any of the debtor’s personal property. The judgment lien certificate does not mean that the debtor is precluded from selling his car for 5 years. It merely means that if any creditor does seize and sell the debtor’s car, then the creditor who has first priority will be paid first.

Sound confusing? Call me.

Do you know how to obtain a judgment lien on the debtor's real property?

There must be real property within the State of Florida against which the judgment will attach. The real property must be non-exempt and subject to levy. For example, if the judgment debtor's property is homestead property or owned by tenants by the entireties (i.e., by husband and wife), then this real property is not subject to levy and the judgment will not attach to the property (unless the property is non-homestead and unless the judgment is against both the husband and wife). You can obtain a judgment on the debtor's real property by recording a certified copy of the judgment in the real estate records of the county in which the real property is located. Once the judgment is properly recorded, the judgment lien takes priority over any judgments recorded at a later date and it maintains that priority so long as the lien exists (i.e. 10 years).

Do you know that a judgment may not be an enforceable lien against real property if you forget to insert the judgment holder's address (i.e., Plaintiff's/creditor’s address) in the judgment or if you only insert the Plaintiff's attorneys address in the judgment?

Florida law requires such information be contained within the judgment (but if you forget, you may re-file a certified copy of the judgment along with an affidavit containing this information).

Do you know how to obtain a judgment lien certificate on the debtor's personal property?

You can obtain a judgment lien certificate on all of the debtor's personal property located anywhere in Florida by filing a judgment lien certificate with the Florida Department of State. A judgment lien certificate lapse after five years. If there are liens ahead of you, you will move toward the front of the line as they lapse. After five years, you can file again and get another judgment lien, but if others have been filed after your first filing, you will go to the end of the line.

Is the debtor required to voluntarily pay you?

No. It is a misconception that obtaining a Florida judgment means you will get paid. In fact, the only time you will get paid on a Florida judgment without subsequent legal effort is if the debtor volunteers to make payments. What are the chances of that? In most situations you will need to further legal action such as garnishment, levy or some other post-judgment action to get paid.

Do you know how to collect your judgment?

It can be difficult and frustrating. If the debtor does not pay you voluntarily, there are several avenues you can take to collect your judgment. First, you may file a garnishment against the debtor's bank account and/or wages. Additionally, you are entitled to get the sheriff to seize the debtor's property. This is called a levy. Once the sheriff has levied on the property, the sheriff will then sell it and disburse the money the sheriff receives from the sale.

Do you know how to locate the debtor's real and personal property?

You can locate the debtor's assets the old fashion way by taking the debtor's deposition or by taking post-judgment discovery (i.e.,requiring the debtor to legally provide the creditor with his or her financial information in writing and under oath). This method can be time-consuming and will "tip off" the debtor to your actions. Alternatively, you can locate the debtor's assets using more advanced and sophisticated research methods without the debtor's knowledge and then seize the assets without further delay or notification to the debtor. It depends upon the facts in the case as to what method to choose.

Do you know that certain property is exempt from garnishment and execution?

A debtor's homestead is exempt from execution. The judgment debtor may also select personal property worth up to $1,000.00, and one motor vehicle worth up to $1,000.00, as exempt property. Only people have exemptions.If your judgment is against a corporation or a partnership, the sheriff can seize all of the corporation's property. Of course, the sheriff can only levy on property the debtor truly owns, not property owned by somebody else, such as leased property. Florida law protects the head of household from wage garnishment. Therefore, unless the head of household makes more than $750.00 per week and has consented in writing to have his/her wages garnished, then these wages are exempt. If the wages are not exempt, a creditor can collect up to 25% of wages per pay period until the judgment is paid. Head of household exemption may apply to all or some of the bank account funds as well. If bank account funds are titled as tenants by the entirety’s property (i.e., owned by both the husband and the wife), these funds may be exempt if your judgment is against only the husband or the wife, not both. There are other exemptions that apply to both wage and bank account garnishments, including but not limited to retirement funds, social security benefits, and unemployment compensation.

Can you enforce a foreign judgment (i.e., a judgment from another state or country) within Florida?

Yes. Domestication of a foreign judgment is the legal process whereby judgments from other states or foreign nations are recorded and then become enforceable in Florida. Thereafter, collection efforts can be commenced to obtain the debtor's property located in Florida.

Is it "judgment" or "judgement" (with an "e")?

Judgment is the American spelling and judgement (with the"e") is the British spelling. In context of the law, however, the spelling is always judgment---without the "e."

Can collecting a judgment give you a headache?

Yes. However, for me, I give headaches to debtors, not get headaches.

Free No Obligation Evaluation

Email us a copy of your uncollected judgment for a free, no-obligation evaluation to jeffrey.begens@gmail.com or fill out the form below.

    Contact Jeffrey Begens, ESQ.

    Free No Obligation Evaluation

    Designed by: Digital Resource
    2019. Law Offices of Jeffrey Begens. All rights reserved.