You’ve endured a difficult, stressful court case. You worked hard to collect the evidence necessary to substantiate your claim. And you prevailed. You feel vindicated, but now the question arises: how are you going to collect your money judgment? Things would be great if the judgment debtor (the losing party) simply transferred the funds to you, the winner, in a simple, hassle-free fashion. But this seldom happens. For all other cases, the State of Florida has an established process for enforcing money judgments.
In this post, we will provide a few key definitions which are necessary to navigate this topic successfully. And then we will proceed with a discussion of the basic procedure for enforcing money judgments.
A Few Definitions
We’ve already mentioned one key definition: a “judgment debtor” refers to the losing party in a case. This is the party which is required to pay money to the winner. The winner in a case is referred to as the “judgment creditor.” As we discuss the procedure involved for enforcing a monetary judgment, we will use the term “levy.” This term refers to the act of seizing property owned by the debtor to ultimately compel payment. Likewise, we will use the term “lien,” which basically means a right or interest in a particular property. Finally, the term “execution” refers to the act of selling property which has been levied for the purpose of paying off the creditors.
Basic Process: Lien, Levy & Execution
In order to enforce a money judgment in Florida, a judgment debtor’s property may be levied and then sold or “executed” to pay the judgment creditors. However, enforcement of money judgments occurs according to a predefined procedure with several distinct steps. The first step, after winning the judgment, is to file a Judgment Lien Certificate with the Department of State. Essentially, this certificate establishes your lien at a certain point in time, and this may be useful in the event that this debtor has multiple creditors. If a debtor has multiple creditors, then the timing of creditor liens plays a role in who receives payment first.
Then, to move forward, you need to locate the property you wish to levy. Creditors should note that only certain property may be levied, and certain exemptions apply for individual debtors (but not corporate or partnership debtors). Then, after identifying the property, creditors will need to obtain a Writ of Execution. This writ allows the local sheriff’s department where the property is located to levy the property. The creditor will need to deliver the writ to the appropriate sheriff’s department with a deposit to cover immediate costs and instructions for the levy.
The sheriff’s department will then levy the property and offer the property for sale in a public auction. The sheriff’s department will sell the property to the highest bidder. The public auction will only take place after certain actions are performed, such as notification of the auction to all creditors and advertisement of the auction in a local newspaper. Then, after the auction takes place, the sheriff’s department will distribute the sale proceeds in a specific manner. After deducting the costs of the auction, and paying you $500 for your costs in the auction, the funds will be disbursed to creditors based on their relative priority (i.e. the highest priority goes to the earliest lienholder, and so on). If there are any remaining funds after all creditors are paid, those excess funds go back to the debtor.
Contact The Frazer Firm for More Information
There is plenty more to know about this important topic. Believe it or not, the matter is even more nuanced than what we’ve presented here. For more detailed and specific information relating to collection of judgment in Florida, contact the experienced litigation attorneys at The Frazer Firm today.
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