The Life Cycle of Judgment Liens and How to Extend Them
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In Florida a judgment must be final in order to operate as a judgment lien. In order for a judgment to be final it must contain conclusive and customary language establishing that judicial labor is at an end and the order is truly dispositive and final. In order for a judgment to be final it should speak to liability as well as damages. A final judgment must also contain the name and address of the entity or person that holds the lien as required by Florida Statutes §55.10, along with the name, address, and federal identification number of the judgment debtor. If, however, this information is not on the face of the judgment it does not defeat the jugdment so long as an affidavit setting forth the information is submitted simultaneously.
In Florida, a judgment becomes a lien on non-exempt real property when a certified copy of it is recorded in the official records or judgment lien records of the county in which the judgment debtor owns real property. A certified copy that is recorded in accordance with Fla. Stat. §55.10(1), operates as a lien in that county for an initial period of 10 years from the date of the recording. The 10 year period may be extended for an additional 10 years, by rerecording a certified copy of the judgment prior to the expiration of the original 10 year period together with an affidavit containing the current address of the lien holder in accordance with Fla. Stat. §55.10(2). It is important to note that in Florida no judgment can be a lien on real or personal property past the expiration of 20 years from the date of judgment according to Fla. Stat. §55.081.
In order for a judgment creditor to obtain a lien against a judgment debtor’s personal property a judgment lien certificate must be filed in the office of the Department of State in accordance with Fla. Stat. §55.203. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. §55.204(1), a judgment lien certificate filed with the Department of State creates a lien on personal property for a period of 5 years from the date of filing. Fla. Stat. §55.204(3) provides that any time within the 6 months preceding or 6 months after the judgment lien lapses, the judgment creditor may acquire a second judgment lien by filing a new judgment lien certificate. This second judgment lien will be considered a new judgment lien and not a continuation of the first and is effective from the date and time of the filing. It is important to note that Florida only provides for one 5 year extension of judgment liens on personal property.
While obtaining a judgment against a debtor is an important victory, many creditors often find that there is no ready source of assets to satisfy the judgment. Judgment liens against the debtor’s real and personal property provide invaluable means to collect for the benefit of the judgment creditor and can serve as a useful negotiation tool.