A common question that we hear from clients is how long can a judgment creditor attempt to collect on a judgment?

Fla. Stat. 95.11(1) sets forth that the statute of limitations for a creditor to enforce a judgment in its favor is 20 years.

Fla. Stat. 55.10(1) provides, in pertinent part, that a judgment “becomes a lien on real property in any county when a certified copy of it is recorded in the official records or judgment lien record of the county.” Once recorded, said judgment operates as a lien for an initial period of 10 years from the date of the recording. Fla. Stat. 55.10(2) provides that the lien may be extended for an additional period of 10 years by rerecording a certified copy of the judgment prior to the expiration of the initial 10-year period.

Fla. Stat. 55.081 provides that no judgment “shall be a lien upon real or personal property within the state after the expiration of 20 years from the date of the entry of such judgment.”

Thus, it appears that the analysis ends there – a judgment in Florida is only valid for 20 years. Or is it?

Recent case law suggests that there may be some loopholes, which allow a judgment to last significantly longer than 20 years, and possibly forever!

According to the 2nd DCA in Petersen v. Whitson, 14 So.3d 300, 302 (Fla. 2d Dist. Ct. App. 2009), after a judgment creditor obtains a judgment, but before the 20-year statute of limitations to enforce the judgment has run, the judgment creditor can start the 20-year limitation period again by filing an action on the judgment and obtaining a new judgment. The Court explained that a new and independent action may be filed on a judgment in order to obtain a new judgment the purpose of which is to secure satisfaction of the original cause of action. Id. Thus, based on this reasoning, it appears that a judgment creditor could potentially continue the judgment well beyond 20 years, if they obtain a new judgment before the initial 20-year limitation period runs, and then obtain a new judgment before the second 20-year limitation period runs, and so on.

In conclusion, it is important to consider the rights of a judgment creditor early on in a debt dispute so that you understand your options and can make informed business decisions.