A judgment is a court order that gives the holder various rights. Most are money judgments which say that the judgment debtor owes you, the judgment creditor, a certain amount of money. Companies or people related to the judgment debtor are not automatically subject to that judgment.
Obtaining a judgment is step one. Step two is turning that judgment into money. It’s up to you as the judgment creditor to have a judgment debtor pay you.
Subject to further review of the court, all the work and money you spend in legal fees and costs after you obtain a judgment may also be recoverable – meaning you can submit paperwork to the court and have your judgment increased by the fees and costs you spend in having to enforce your judgment.
A Florida judgment is valid for 10 years and can be renewed for another 10 years. A judgment will last a total of 20 years. It sounds like a long time but you need to make sure that if you are intending to pursue a judgment, you do so regularly and soon. You then must stay on top of that judgment over the course of its life if you expect to collect on it. Someone may not have the money to satisfy your judgment now but may have it in the future.
Do It First
Understand that the rule for judgments is first in time, first in right. This means that the parties that are able to recover first against property are those that obtain a recorded copy of the judgment first. It’s not whether you obtain the judgment first; it’s whether you record that judgment first. If you want to grab some real property belonging to your debtor, you need to record a certified copy of the judgment in the county where the property is held. So if you have a judgment against ABC Corp. and they have property in Brevard County, then you need to take a certified copy of that judgment, say a Miami-Dade County judgment, and record it in Brevard County. Once you do that, your priority date for your judgment for that property will be the day you recorded the judgment in Brevard County.
Your judgment on the property will, of course, be subject to any prior judgments, liens or encumbrances that are already on that property – those that existed prior to you recording your certified copy.
Personal property of the judgment debtor can also be secured by docketing a copy of your judgment with the Secretary of State. In Florida, you can do this online on the Secretary of State site, www.sunbiz.org. You obtain priority on any personal property based on how quickly you can docket your judgment, no matter where you obtain it.
Timing is critical to so many things, and that is surely the case with judgments.