Judgment Liens

August 12, 2023


I am the nation’s only Judgment Broker, and I am not a lawyer. My articles are my opinions, and not legal advice. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.

If your judgment debtor currently has equity in property, or will likely (someday) inherit one or more properties from their (e.g., parents); one helpful tactic in the process of enforcing a judgment, is to record a judgment lien.

Judgment liens attach to the identity of the person or the entity. Judgment liens usually attach to any properties they own now or in the future. The process for creating a judgment lien is usually simple and cheap. The procedures and terminologies used varies in each state. Almost every state allow a property lien to be created by judgment owners. Before a state court judgment from another state can be recorded into a new state it must be domesticated to the new state.

In most states, liens must be recorded in each separate county where you want a lien to attach to the debtor’s property. Florida is an exception, where a judgment lien is recorded state-wide at the Florida Department of State.

In Alabama, judgment liens are recorded county by county. A judgment lien is established when a Certificate of Judgment (issued by the Clerk of Court) is filed at the County Probate Office.

In California, judgment liens are recorded county by county. The judgment owner files an Abstract of Judgment at the County Recorder’s office. A few days later, the County Recorder will mail the judgment debtor a notice of the lien.

In Georgia, judgment liens are recorded county by county. In Georgia, Fieri Facias (FiFAs) can be recorded. A FiFa is similar to a Writ Of Execution used other states. A FiFa can be recorded with the County Recorder to make them attach to the judgment debtor’s property.

When the judgment debtor finds out that a lien has been placed on their property, especially when they have equity in that property; they may realize that having a judgment against them is serious business. A judgment lien is an encumbrance on the judgment debtor’s property. Occasionally, the notice of the lien alone, is sufficient to persuade the debtor to pay off the judgment.

Depending on which state, the equity situation, and any pre-existing liens on the property; there may be a risk that the judgment debtor’s property might be sold by the Sheriff to satisfy the judgment debt. At the very least, having a lien usually makes it more difficult or impossible to get financing or refinancing on their encumbered property. The bank will usually require the judgment debtor to pay off the judgment before any financing is approved.

Recording a judgment lien is a passive way to enforce a judgment. You record liens, keep the judgment and the liens renewed, and one day “out of the blue”, their property gets sold or refinanced, and the next thing you know, you get paid toward satisfying the judgment, either partially, or in full.

Some properties are upside down. Still, recording liens sometimes work, especially when a judgment debtor stands to inherit a property. When housing price increases come back, the simple procedures to establish a judgment lien will once again be one of the best “bang for the buck” judgment recovery tools. Note that a lien only affects the debtor named on the lien. If the debtor’s children inherit a property, the lien will not automatically attach because the property will no longer be in the name of the judgment debtor.

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