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New Options for Pursuing Judgment Liens in Florida

April 9, 2024 Banking & Financial Services Industry Legal Blog

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Acquiring a money judgment through the litigation process in the State of Florida can be tough, arduous, and expensive. When a court enters a civil money judgment, it creates a judgment debtor and a judgment creditor. If the judgment debtor fails or refuses to pay the amount of the judgment, the judgment creditor may elect to use statutory collection methods to partially or fully satisfy the judgment. Collecting on a judgment can be tricky due to the many exceptions that exist in favor of judgment debtors, however, due to a new law that became effective on July 1, 2023, judgment creditors now have a new avenue they can use to collect.  

Current Exemptions for Judgment Creditors

The State of Florida currently has several exemptions at a judgment debtor’s disposal, including but not limited to, the homestead exemption provided for by the State Constitution, various personal property exemptions provided for by State Statute, certain protections provided to spouses that hold property jointly, and the head of household exemption. These exemptions are addressed below in turn. 

  1. Homestead Exemption: This exemption protects a debtor’s primary residence from being seized to pay off debts, wherein the homestead property of a judgment-debtor is protected from attachment of a judgment lien regardless of how much equity there is in the property. Homestead property in Florida is exempt from judgment creditors by the homestead provision of the Florida Constitution. This means that a creditor cannot place a lien against or force the sale of one’s homestead to satisfy an obligation or monetary judgment. 
  2. Personal Property: In accordance with Florida Statute, when a levy is made upon personal property, which is allowed by law or by the State Constitution to be exempt from levy and sale, the debtor may claim such personal property to be exempt from sale by taking certain steps in a collection action. This can include cash in bank accounts, personal belongings in the household, and an exemption of up to $1,000.00 on one’s vehicle. 
  3. Spousal Protections: If a judgment is acquired against only one spouse, the other spouse is entitled to protect his or her interest in the property that is at stake, which means jointly held property is not subject to the claims of creditors of spouses individually. Again, the judgment debtor would need to take certain steps to be afforded this protection in the judgment creditor’s case for collection. 
  4. Head of Household: If a person makes less than a certain amount of money per week in net wages, and the person is head of their family or household, those wages are exempt from collection. A head of family is defined as someone who provides more than one-half of the support for a child or other person. Wages that belong to a head of household retain their protection from being seized for a certain amount of time upon taking the proper steps to protect those wages. 

The above list, while non-exhaustive, are the main exemptions claimed by judgment debtors when pursued for collection on a money judgment. 

Judgment Liens

A common method for collecting on judgments is the placement of judgment lien. The main benefit of a judgment lien is that the judgment debtor cannot easily sell certain property because any purchaser would acquire the property with the lien attached. A general lien against personal property is created by recording a judgment lien certificate with the Florida Department of State. Filing with the Department of State serves as public notice that the judgment creditor has a monetary judgment against the judgment debtor. Liens are valid for five years from the original filing date, and Florida law allows judgment liens to be filed a second time to extend the lien’s validity for five additional years.  

Filing a judgment lien certificate does not encumber all personal property, as some exemptions—as described above—do apply. However, judgment liens can attach to non-exempt, tangible personal property, such as equipment, furniture, vehicles, and boats, as well as, one’s interest in a business, such as a corporation or a limited liability company. Ensuring a judgment lien is properly filed with the Department of State is crucial in a judgement creditor’s effort to collect on its judgment. 

Judgment Lien Improvement Act

Before July 1, 2023, Florida law did not allow a judgment lien to attach to intangible personal property, such as royalties, and the right to receive rents or payments for the sale of goods or services. This rendered a judgment debtor’s intangible personal property outside the reach of a judgment creditor even though the value of such property might be significant and sufficient to satisfy the judgment lien. In 2023, however, the Legislature passed the Judgment Lien Improvement Act which, in part, allows a judgment lien to attach to certain types of intangible personal property—specifically payment intangibles and accounts, as well as the proceeds thereof. The Act added that accounts and payment intangibles are forms of intangible personal property to which a judgment lien may now attach.  

The Act also provides that a third party who owes money to a judgment debtor that is classified as payment intangibles or accounts, called an account debtor, must stop paying the judgment debtor when the account debtor is served with a complaint or petition by the judgment creditor seeking judicial relief with respect to the payment intangibles or accounts. Once served, the account debtor may discharge the account debtor’s payment obligation only in accordance with a final order or judgment. In other words, a judgment creditor can now pursue the payor of a judgment debtor for things such as rent, to ensure payments come directly from the account debtor directly to the judgment creditor. 

Additionally, Florida law provides that a judgment lien on a motor vehicle or vessel, though enforceable against the judgment debtor, is not enforceable against creditors or subsequent purchasers, unless the lien is noted on the title certificate. The Judgment Lien Improvement Act simplified the process for filing a lien that will appear on the title certificate, so that a judgment creditor can more easily enforce their lien against subsequent purchasers.  


Acquiring a money judgment is merely the first step to being made whole after filing suit in Florida. It is often times more difficult to collect on a judgment than it is to acquire one. While several exemptions that protect certain property of a judgment debtor still exist, the Judgment Lien Improvement Act provides additional options for judgment creditors to explore in order to make them whole. The litigation attorneys at Jimerson Birr can help you not only acquire a money judgment, but also assist you in navigating the post-judgment collection process, including the filing and pursuit of judgment lien certificates.  

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