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Is there anything I can do about a judgment against me from a creditor from over one year ago?

Jacksonville, FL |

I have a judgment against me from a credit card company. I was unable to obtain legal representation on my behalf from legal aid. I am not able to pay the amount owed. I am uncertain what to do at this time.

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Attorney answers 2


If you don't have anything to take there isn't much that a judgement creditor can do to you in the short run. They can make life a bit difficult by making you tell them in writing and in depositions everything you own and where all your bank accounts are. And if you ignore them you can be held in contempt of court and put in jail. But all of that costs the judgment creditor money in attorneys fees and court costs which, if you haven't got anything to take, is like throwing good money after bad. So they don't pursue the judgment. Apparently that is the case with you. If the Judgment is a year old then they have already decided to just let it sit in the record. You are what we call "judgment proof." You don't have anything to take.

Now let me explain what can happen to you in the long run. That judgment remains in the public records for 20 years. It has to be renewed every 7 years but if it is it is good for 20 years total.

The judgment attaches to everything you own, both personal property but more importantly, real property such as a home. You may not own any real estate now but it attaches to all future real estate you may buy 10 or 15 years from now. It acts as a lien on the property similar to a mortgage. If it is not homestead property the judgment creditor can foreclose the lien on it at any time after you acquire the property. But usually the problems arise when you try to sell your property. The judgment comes up in the record and unless it is paid out of the closing costs of the sale of your property, no one will buy your property because the judgment goes with the property.

Also, the judgement is earning interest at the legal rate which, I believe, is currently 10% per year. So, after 10 or 15 years that $5000 judgment could now be $15 or $20,000.

And finally the judgment will adversely affect your credit. You probably will not be able to buy anything on credit because the judgment is out there looming.

If you can pay any part of it, you might be able to negotiate with the creditor or its attorney. (Although you need to know what you are doing before you take that approach). They might be willing to settle for a quarter or half of the judgment in return for with they give you a Satisfaction of Judgment which you record in the public records and which cancels the judgment. The creditor may be will to take something rather than settle on nothing.

Finally, if you cannot pay it, cannot resolve it, and don't plan on being broke and judgment proof all your life, then you might consider bankruptcy. You should consult a bankruptcy attorney. Many give free initial consultations.

The foregoing has been offered for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship has been formed hereby and none has been intended.

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I am attaching a scholarly article that explains EXACTLY how judgments work in Florida (to the extent that there are exact answers--the question of when [or even whether] judgments expire in the State of Florida cannot be answered with precision because courts themselves have not been precise or correct in their decisionmaking).

Judgment's life: ostensibly 20 years, but may actually go "dormant" at 364 days or be good forever, the only thing we can say right now is that smart creditors would file a new case to renew the judgment just short of the 20 year mark as the law now stands.

Lien on real property (if filed): 10 years, and can be renewed for 10 years.
Lien on personal property (if filed): 5 years, and can be renewed for 5 years.

Some creditors re-record judgments at 7 year intervals, but this is not any feature of Florida law, rather it is an effort to cause the credit reporting agencies to put the judgment back on the individual's credit reports because although they could legally keep the judgment on past 7 years, they typically drop them at the 7 year mark regardless.