What is a “Final Judgment” and why should I care?
Written by Emil Fleysher | July 11, 2012 | Bankruptcy
A final judgment is the Judge’s final decision in a case as recorded in the files stored in the Office of the Clerk of Courts. The party that sued you and obtained the judgment is called a “judgment creditor.” The judgment creditor can obtain right to proceed against your property through writ of execution, garnishment, or other judicial process. A judgment becomes a lien when a certified copy of it is recorded in the official county records. The lien may attach to any non-exempt real property in the county where it is recorded. The recorded judgment also report as a negative history on your credit report. This blemish can make it difficult or impossible to obtain loans or financing. The judgment lien is good for up to 20 years and can stay on your credit report for that long.
As soon as the creditor has obtained a Final Judgment, it may require you to answer a series of questions, in person or otherwise, which must be answered under oath, seeking to identify and locate your assets against which the creditor will enforce its Final Judgment. If you fail to respond these questions in time, you may be held in contempt of court and a Writ of Bodily Attachment may be issued. A Writ of Bodily Attachment is a writ commanding law enforcement to physically bring in a person in contempt of court. Evidently, you cannot get out of this writ just by paying the fine, the court can hold you up to 48 hours to meet with the person issuing the writ directly.
Once the creditor has the judgment lien and knows where your assets are, it can seek a Writ of Execution. The writ of execution tells the sheriff to seize your property to satisfy the judgment. If your only asset is your paycheck, the creditor can go after that with a Writ of Garnishment. A Writ of Garnishment may enable the creditor to levy against your paycheck or bank account.
In Florida, you have certain property that may be exempt from garnishment. Furthermore, most judgments and their resulting garnishments can be discharged in Bankruptcy. For more information, please contact a qualified attorney to discuss your options.
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