I received a call from a doctor who had his checking account garnished by a creditor who obtained a judgment over 10 years ago. The caller had found by his own research that judgement liens expire in 10 years, and he asked how the creditor could apply his judgement which is now over 10 years old to garnish a bank account.
The caller confused judgments and judgment liens. A judgment lien is the recording of a certified judgment with the Florida registry. The recording gives the judgment holder priority over judgments subsequently recorded. Any proceeds from the forced sale of debtor’s property subject to the judgment will go to pay priority judgment liens first, and money left over, if any, is applied to the junior liens. Property such as homestead is not subject to judgment liens. After 10 years the first recorded judgment lien loses its priority standing
Judgments which are not recorded as liens, or are recorded as junior liens, are still valid judgments which can be executed against the debtor’s property. A judgment creditor may garnish the debtor’s bank accounts even if the creditor has not recorded its judgment or has recorded in second place. Florida Statute 55.081 states that judgments are good for 20 years. Therefore, 10 years after this caller’s creditor had obtained a judgment and recorded the judgment the creditor may have lost the priority of his recorded lien, but the judgment was still in effect and could be used to obtain a writ of garnishment.