Collecting on a Florida Judgment
How To Collect on a Florida Judgment
COLLECTION OF YOUR JUDGMENT
You have a Florida judgment and want to collect. In most cases, obtaining the judgment is the easy part. Now you need to get paid. Whether the judgment was obtained by Marcadis Singer or another law firm, or whether the judgment was a foreign judgment or domesticated exemplified judgment (a judgment from another state that is filed in Florida ) the process is generally the same. Collecting on a Florida Judgment can be a difficult task, without the debt collection expertise of a Florida Debt Collection Attorney, you just may end up with a piece of paper that’s worth… a piece of paper.
INFORMATION ON THE DEFENDANT
It is always best to start with gathering information on the defendant. If we were the attorneys who obtained the judgment we have been trying to gather as much of the information from the beginning from various sources. Regardless, information is the key in collecting a judgment
Some of the information is easily available. Is the defendant a corporation or an individual, if a corporation, is the corporation still in business, or if an individual, do we have a good address? If the defendant is in business, how much inventory or business assets do they have? Do we have banking information? Many times the information is right on the credit application but we need to be careful if the credit application is too old and the information outdated. If the defendant has paid part of the past due amount hopefully a copy of the check, or at least the banking information is retained by the client. If a payment is made to us, we have that information. As to an individual defendant, it is important to know whether the defendant is married, has children, and of course, whether the defendant has a job.
It’s important to know if there are other judgments ahead of you. If there are other judgments, all is not lost as many times the “Squeaky wheel gets the grease” and the Plaintiff who aggressively pursues the collection of a judgment is the one who gets paid. But don’t get me wrong. Having judgments ahead of you does impose certain limitations. If we locate assets and want to levy on those assets and there are other judgment executions registered ahead of yours, then that judgment will get paid first. A search of the records can help determine if there are other prior judgments.
Some information is more difficult to obtain. We may not have the banking information at our fingertips. We may not know where the defendant holds all his or her real estate ( are some out of state) or what businesses assets or inventory are owned. Also, the defendants are smarter and more informed due to the internet. So it’s a concern that many defendants may be transferring or hiding some of their assets. In circumstances where the information is not readily available, there are ways to obtain that information.
HOW IS THE INFORMATION OBTAINED
If the debtor information is not known or otherwise unavailable on the internet then Florida law allows you to obtain the information with the power of the Subpoena. The Florida legal system permits the Plaintiff to bring the defendant in for a post-judgment debtor examination or deposition before a court reporter. The creditor is permitted to subpoena the defendant or defendant’s corporate representative to appear before a court reporter to answer questions. Along with the deposition, a subpoena could demand the defendant appear with documents such as tax returns, bank account statements, and title to cars…to name a few. Further, a subpoena can be used to gather information from third parties such as banks, other creditors, and family members.
But it’s not always that easy. Oftentimes, the defendant fails to appear at the deposition or if they do appear, they fail to produce documents. In cases like this, the plaintiff would be required to file a motion to compel, motion for contempt, order to show causes and other motions to obtain an order from the court to force the defendant to appear and/or produce documents. The court has the authority to actually issue an arrest order if the defendant continues to disobey a court order to appear. Second, depositions are difficult in that you need to ask the right questions and more importantly, follow up questions. Remember, as I mentioned above, the defendants are doing their best not to disclose the information.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE INFORMATION
Once the information is obtained and reviewed, a decision needs to be made on what to do next. As my first-year law professor would say when asked a question, “Read the statute”. Florida Statute offers the smart plaintiff numerous avenues in the collection of a judgment however, it also creates even more dead ends in terms of exemptions, exclusions and exceptions for the defendant. Regardless, the creditor is given opportunities (with exceptions) to levy on the defendant’s business assets, or vehicles ( we get some nice cars and trucks) and garnish the defendant’s wages or bank account.
HOW LONG IS THE JUDGMENT GOOD FOR
The great thing is that if we at first fail to collect money, we can continue to try to collect. The Florida Judgment is good for 20 years (although the lien and execution are shorter periods and must be renewed). Therefore, if the creditor does not collect on the judgment on the first try, the judgment can be revisited years down the road for further action.