A frequent (and understandable) misconception amongst many litigants is that obtaining a final judgment is the end of the road to litigation. Many believe that the opposing side will be forced to cut a check then and there. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Unless the final judgment was obtained against an insurance company or heavily solvent judgment debtor, there is a high likelihood that collections actions will be needed. This is especially true in Florida, which is widely considered the most debtor friendly state in the country. A seasoned collections attorney should be consulted early in the process. At Law Offices of Paul A. Humbert, P.L., we are happy to take a look at your judgment to determine feasibility for collections.
It is no surprise that O.J. Simpson moved to Florida after the Goldman family obtained a multi-million dollar verdict against him in California State Court. This is because Florida is arguably the most “debtor-friendly” state in the United States, with Texas the likely silver medal winner. Good news if you are a judgment debtor on the run from creditors. Bad news if you are an aggrieved creditor seeking financial recourse. Why is this the case? There are two primary reasons. First, Floridians enjoy a virtually unlimited homestead exemption, subject to a 160 acre limit outside of a municipality and ½ acre limit within a municipality. Also, Floridians who are married enjoy tenancy by the entirety protections. This, along with other more nuanced debtor protections found in the Florida Statutes and well established Florida case law, provide a formidable shield to creditor collections efforts.
But all is not lost. There are areas of Florida law that allow deference to creditors. For example, the woefully under used, but incredibly effective, proceedings supplementary statute of Florida Statute §56.29 is a potent weapon for judgment creditors. Although many lawyers have never heard of the statute, let alone used it in practice, proceedings supplementary is a powerful tool to uncover fraudulent transfers and bring certain assets before the Court that are otherwise difficult or impossible to execute on. At Law Offices of Paul A. Humbert, P.L. we routinely use proceedings supplementary as a post-judgment collection tool to collect from difficult judgment debtors.
You need to “domesticate” the judgment in Florida. This process will ensure that the Florida courts recognize the judgment and it becomes enforceable in Florida. But be warned, Florida Statute §55.501, titled the “Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act” is far more nuanced than the text of the statute would indicate. Even the decision of which county to domesticate an out-of- state judgment in Florida is a vital decision that many litigants and attorneys do not understand. While the mechanics of domesticating an out-of-state judgment are relatively straight forward, the strategy involved with maximizing the likelihood of collection is not. Please browse other parts of website, where we detail the domestication of judgment process in Florida in more detail.
Post judgment discovery, writs of garnishment, execution (seizure and sale of real and personal property) proceedings supplementary, and fraudulent transfer actions are all tools available to judgment creditors in Florida. More details about these procedures are set forth on our website.
There are many ways to continue pursuit of a debtor who has filed for bankruptcy – whether the debtor files a Chapter 7, 13 or 11. However, you must be cautious not to violate the automatic stay, which prohibits creditors from continuing collections efforts after the debtor files for bankruptcy. Once the debtor files a suggestion of bankruptcy, the proper forum will be the bankruptcy court to address any concerns a creditor may have. For a secured creditor, obtaining relief from the automatic stay may be possible. For the unsecured creditor, there may be fewer options, although any creditor is entitled to depose the debtor in bankruptcy, and participate in a distribution to unsecured creditors by filing a proof of claim.
Law Offices of Paul A. Humbert, P.L. offers many types of fee arrangements including hourly, flat fees, contingency fees, and hybrid fee agreements, depending on the service. We are willing to work with the client to determine what works best for both parties.