Spend a few hours searching civil judgments online and you will find more information than your brain can process. At the end of your research, the chances are pretty good that you will be terribly confused. Needless to say, this is one area of law that average people just can’t seem to fully grasp.
So what’s going on? Why are civil judgments so confusing? This blog post will attempt to answer those questions. Bear in mind that the answers are not necessarily black-and-white. You will understand as you go through this post.
State Laws Vary
The first difficulty here is the fact that state laws vary. For the record, civil judgments are not regulated at the federal level. They are left to the states. And just like state laws can disagree on everything from driver’s license requirements to medical cannabis cards, they disagree where civil judgments are concerned.
Imagine you work for a Salt Lake City firm known as Judgment Collectors. They serve clients in six states including California and Texas. You might read one of their blog posts discussing wage garnishment in Texas. The information in that post would not apply to California. Why? Because the two states regulate wage garnishment differently.
Different Kinds of Judgments
Adding to the confusion created by conflicting state laws is the reality that there are different kinds of judgments. You might have a judgment entered against you by a local hospital because you haven’t paid your bill. Meanwhile, another person who goes to court on the same day is being sued as a result of a car crash. Any award going to the plaintiff is recorded as a judgment against him.
There are judgments entered against divorced parents who fall behind on child support. There are civil judgments for unpaid taxes, defaulted student loans, and on and on. Here’s the thing: information you read about one type of judgment doesn’t necessarily apply to another type of judgment.
Different Means of Collection
The confusion rolls on when it comes time to collect on civil judgments. Wage and bank account garnishment are both popular collection methods, but they are not th\e only collection methods. Creditors can utilize property liens, asset seizure, and other tools as allowed by state law.
You might read a blog post that implies a creditor cannot place a lien on your primary residence. But is that true in all fifty states? The only way to know is to look it up. And if it is not legal in your state, what is? There are other ways for debt collection agencies to compel you to pay.
Civil judgments can be confusing in that there are different enforcement limits. As a general rule, judgments can be enforced for 7 to 10 years. But that rule isn’t ironclad. There may be states with shorter or longer limits. On top of that, some states allow creditors to renew judgments if they haven’t collected by the end of the original enforcement term.
This means that it is not always true that a debtor can wait out a judgment in hopes of it going away. Maybe he can; maybe he can’t. It depends on the perseverance of the creditor and what state law allows.
This post could continue detailing confusing aspects civil judgments. Hopefully, you get the point. The fact is that the topic of civil judgment is confusing because of a lack of uniformity from state to state. That is really the bottom line. If you ever need to search information for your own circumstances, make sure what you find pertains to your state.