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Enforcement of a 6 Year Old Judgment

How long do judgment garnishments last? What happens if you move out of the state?

I have an old debt back from 2001 in which a judgement was rendered in 2002 and an order of garnishment was issued. My credit report shows this debt as being charged off. I did pay on the garnishment order from 2002 through 2005 but left Hawaii so the garnishment was stopped. I have since moved back and now the original creditor has contacted me for payment. Can they do this? Can they sue me again like they are stating? The original creditor is still tacking on interest even though the judgement included interest and attorney's fees, the amount that the original creditor is asking for is much more now. Help!

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Bill's Answer
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Updated: Oct 20, 2014

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In the state of Hawaii, a judgment is valid for ten years from the date it was issued by the court. Given the fact that the judgment on your account was entered in 2002 — 6 years ago — the creditor is almost certainly within its rights to continue trying to collect on this debt. In addition, Hawaii law allows judgments to be renewed if the creditor files a motion for renewal prior to the expiration of the judgment; if the creditor is conscientious about filing its renewals every ten years, then this judgment may be enforceable almost indefinitely. Even though the garnishment was interrupted when you left the state in 2005, the judgment should still be valid, so it is no surprise that the creditor is once again attempting to enforce the obligation. Please understand that I am not licensed to practice law in Hawaii, so I cannot provide you with legal advice and all statements made about the enforcement of judgments are based on my general experience very limited knowledge of Hawaii state law. I would strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney licensed to practice law in Hawaii to discuss the judgment entered against you and what action the creditor may legally take enforce the payment of this debt. For more information about the various state laws related to the enforcement of judgments, see the Bills.com Collection Laws & Exemptions by State page.

A debt being charged off does not mean that the debt itself is not owed. “Charge off” is an accounting term used by banks to mean that they have taken an account off of their “accounts receivable” ledgers and have classified the obligation as “bad debt.” The federal Office of the Comptroller of Currency requires that national banking associations charge off any accounts on which they have not received payment in a certain period of time; the length of time changes periodically, but is usually around 120 to 180 days. Since accounts receivable are often reported as future earnings, the OCC requires that banks charge off old debts, as it does not want banks to use accounts which are unlikely to be paid to artificially inflate their future earnings projections. As a consumer, having an account charge off will appear on your credit report as a derogatory item, but it does not mean that the debt itself is no longer owed.

I am surprised that this creditor is telling you that they are going to sue you again on this obligation. If they already have a judgment against you, they cannot file another lawsuit for the collection of the same debt. However, the creditor can continue to collect on the judgment it previously obtained, including garnishing your wages again or pursuing other means to enforce the judgment such as levying your bank accounts or placing a lien on your property. In addition, Hawaii law allows creditors to charge 10% per annum interest on judgments, so the fact that the creditor has added interest is not unusual. Again, I encourage you to consult with an attorney in your state to discuss what actions this creditor can take against you and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

For more information about the various options available to consumers struggling with debts, I encourage you to visit the Bills.com debt help page. I wish you the best of luck in resolving this judgment and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

14 Comments

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  • SJ
    Jun, 2011
    Sandy
    A judgement was filed against me in Sept 2004. I'm sure you've heard this a million times but, I never received the subpoena. When I checked my records the subpoena was given to some name that I am not familiar with. Long story short, I missed the trial and a judgement was entered. I appealed it years ago but lost to the attorneys. I was so upset, I refused to pay and as a result, my wages and bank accounts were garnished. My wages still are garnished but they haven't taken from my bank in years. My questions are: Is it too late to file a motion to vacate? Should I? If so, should I wait until the 7yr mark so I don't remind the attorneys to re-file the garnishments/judgments? If I switch jobs, can they garnish my wages at my new job if the statute of limitation has passed? When does the clock actually start? When the judgement was entered or when the garnishment was entered? (I live in MD, our SOL is 5yrs).
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Jun, 2011
      Bill
      It is unfortunate your motion to vacate was unsuccessful because it sounds like you had a viable argument against the judgment. Be that as it may, consult with a Maryland lawyer about any statute of limitations that Maryland may have for appealing a civil judgment. My guess, note that word choice, is that it passed given the other facts you shared in your message. Regarding your other questions, those too I would recommend you ask of a Maryland lawyer. My exposure to Maryland law is almost nil, and I would do you a disservice to try to answer your other questions.
      0 Votes

  • BA
    Sep, 2010
    Bill
    The judgment must be domesticated in the judgment-debtor's state of residence, and is subject to that state's collection laws. The employer does not need to act as the judgment-creditor's counsel and does not need to advise the judgment-creditor what it needs to do to collect the debt. The employer can simply reply to the wage garnishment request by saying wages are 100% exempt for South Carolina residents.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2010
    Confused
    A judgment was issued in NJ for a debt owed and a wage execution was issued to the person's employer. The person then moved to South Carolina which has a law against wage garnishments and the employer stopped garnishing the employee's wages. The party that was awarded the judgment is now telling the employer that they have to continue the wage garnishment but the employer is concerned given they feel they will be violating SC law if they do so. Shouldn't the employer request that the creditor file a copy of the foreign judgment and affidavit in SC court for the employer to start up garnishment of the employee?
    0 Votes

  • BA
    Feb, 2010
    Bill
    My first and last word will be to recommend you consult with an Alabama attorney who has experience in consumer law and litigation. The attorney needs to investigate if the service of process was effective. If not, then the court's finding and judgment can be reversed unless too much time has passed. I am far from an expert on Alabama's civil procedure rules, and an Alabama attorney will be able to review the facts in your case and advise you of your rights accordingly. Regarding the statute of limitations defense, that is an issue the defendant must raise at trial. The judge cannot raise the issue for the defendant. Instead, the defendant must raise the defense and prove it applies. Again, find an attorney.
    0 Votes

  • TS
    Feb, 2010
    Tony
    My situation is just like the one posted in No. 7 by D. Brown. A judgement by a credit card co. was entered against me for 16,500 in Nov. 2007. I was not aware of the hearing or I completely forgot. Nvertheless, there is a jugement against me. But the credit card debt was past the statute of limitations here in Alabama. Now it has been 5 1/2 years since the last payment on the debt. Can the judgement be overturned because of the statute of limitations as I am sure the credit card collector didn't tell the judge about the SoL. What should I do?
    0 Votes