Information on How Long a Judgment Will Last

My spouse has a judgment against him for an unpaid bill. Is there a time limit as to how long this judgment is open?

My spouse has a judgment against him for an unpaid bill. We lost a business in NC. Is there a time limit as to how long this judgment is open? The amount is for equipment with a substantial amount of money owed.

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Bill's Answer
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  • Review how your state affects how long a judgment stays in force.
  • Understand that a judgment can be renewed by the creditor.
  • Consider a bankruptcy as a way of discharging the judgment-debt.

North Carolina law allows a judgment creditor to try to collect on its judgment for ten years; in addition, creditors holding judgments can petition the court which entered the judgment to renew the judgment before the initial ten years expires. As long as the judgment creditor keeps up with the renewal process, the judgment can be renewed indefinitely until the judgment is paid. However, many creditors do not effectively track the expiration of their judgments, so if the creditor does not file for renewal, it is possible that your husband’s judgment will expire after the initial ten years.

To read about the various statutes of limitations for the collection of judgments, and the renewal procedure in various states, see the Bills.com statute of limitations and state collections laws page.

You state that you lost a business in North Carolina, but your question is unclear as to whether or not you currently live in NC or if you have moved to a different state. The state of your residence is important, as it impacts what action the creditor can take against your husband to enforce this debt. For example, North Carolina generally does not allow wage garnishment for the enforcement of civil judgments, which could make enforcing the judgment against your husband much more difficult. However, if you have moved to a different state, the creditor could file a motion to domesticate its NC judgment in your new state of residence, and then could enforce its judgment under the new state’s laws, which, in most states, allow for wage garnishment, levying of bank accounts, etc. I encourage you to consult with an attorney in your area to discuss the judgment against your husband and what action this creditor can take to enforce its debt.

If the judgment is as large as you seem to indicate in your question, your husband may need to consider filing for bankruptcy protection. In many cases, people whose businesses have failed are forced to file bankruptcy due to the overwhelming debt that can result from an unsuccessful business venture. Filing for bankruptcy protection could allow your husband to either completely discharge this debt (Chapter 7 bankruptcy), or to work out a plan to pay back at least a portion of the debt (Chapter 13). A bankruptcy may also provide you and your husband an opportunity to resolve any other outstanding debts you and your family may owe. Which type of bankruptcy would be best for your family depends on many factors, including the type of debt you owe, your income, and other creditors. If you and your husband are considering filing for bankruptcy protection, I strongly encourage you to consult with a local attorney to discuss what bankruptcy options may be available to you. I also invite you to visit the Bills.com bankruptcy resources page.

I wish you and your husband the best of luck in finding a workable solution to resolve this debt.

I hope that the information I provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

26 Comments

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  • 35x35
    Apr, 2012
    Tujuana
    I had a judgement filed against me back in 2004/2005 for an outstanding credit card from 2001. I moved to NC in 2003/2004 and the address that was listed prevented me from receiving documentation stating I had to go to court. The debt was brought by first resolution and they hired an attorney here in Charlotte, NC. I was in the process of fixing my credit and the sheriff came and handed me a writ of execution and had my car towed away. The judgement is not showing on my credit report because it fell off in November, 2011. Do they still have a right to take my property even though the judgement is no longer showing on my credit report? I thought that after 10 years the it was dissolved. I called and try to see what I could do to resolve the debt and the attorney off was rude and stated that my car would be auction of on 04/30/2012 at 1:00 pm. The debt was twice as much as the original amount of the debt. Is there anything I can do the attorney I spoke to basically stated that Bankruptcy is the only option is that true?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2012
      Bill
      Think of a credit report as a specialized newspaper where the credit reporting agencies publish information reported to them by creditors. The information may be accurate or not. Creditors may or may not choose to give their information to the credit reporting agencies. A debt appearing on your credit report does not mean you owe the debt because the creditor may have made a mistake in its report. The opposite is also true: Just because a debt does not appear on a credit report does not mean you do not owe the debt. A credit report is not an official legal ledger where all of a consumer's debts are recorded and published.

      You mentioned you were never served with a summons regarding the creditor's lawsuit. Also, you seem surprised by the sheriff appearing to seize your vehicle, which tells me you were given no notice of the judgment. For these two reasons, consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience immediately. You may be able to vacate the judgment due to the plaintiff not following your state's civil procedure rules.
      2 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Bill
    See the Bills.com resources Collections Advice to understand the rights of creditors and debtors regarding debt. As for the Social Security question, see Social Security Garnishment.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Mar, 2011
      nick
      hi i have a chapter 7 bankruptcy and 1 judgement ageist me which i have set up payment arrangements and a credit line form a future company who is threating to file suit ageist me. they set up credit with me after the bankruptcy and they said if they get a judgement they can come to my house with the sheriff and take property to pay off the debt. i live in Georgia can they do this? also i was out of work for 3 months on FMLA so i'm just returning to work and that is why i couldn't make a payment arrangement at this time. what can i do?
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Mar, 2011
      Bill
      The chain of events you described confuse me, and I wonder why the judgment (or the debt that gave rise to the judgment) was not included in your bankruptcy filing. Consult with your bankruptcy lawyer about the judgment — it may be prohibited under bankruptcy law.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Ginger
    My husband received civil papers for a judgement on a credit card balance. He only draws an small SS check and I am on unemployment. Can the creditor take personal property, such as vehicle? Can they garnish his SS check? We live in NC, balance is approx 10,000. Any info would be greatly appreciated.
    3 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    Bill
    Do not believe legal advice from collection agents. The legal information from collections is usually incomplete or wrong, and is always self serving. You were correct in the phrasing of your message "They claim they have a judgment against me." I may claim to be as handsome as Tom Cruise, but that does not make my statement true. Let us assume for a moment the judgment-creditor has a judgment against you that was given in 1997. (In other words, for the sake of argument let us say you were a party to the lawsuit against your spouse.) The statute of limitations for judgments in North Carolina is 10 years. Assuming you were a North Carolina resident in 1997 and have remained so since, and assuming there was a 1997 judgment, that judgment expired in 2007. Even if the judgment was granted in 1998 or 1999, the judgment-credit is outside of the statute of limitations for collecting on the debt.

    Now let us assume that the creditor suddenly and recently realized you were a co-signatory for the loan. Depending on the nature of the loan, the statute of limitations is either three or 10 years. Regardless, the statute of limitations on the contract for the loan has passed. The creditor can attempt to collect the loan. It can file a lawsuit against you. However, the court will dismiss the case if you raise the statute of limitations defense in a timely manner. The statute of limitations defense is not something the court will do for the defendant -- the defendant must raise this defense. If you receive a summons to appear, do so on the date specified and present your evidence to the court. Of course, it would be wise to consult with a North Carolina attorney if you have additional questions or you receive a summons.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    Kathy
    My late husband and I co-signed for a loan in 1997. The statute of limitations for contract loans in NC is 10 years. My husband and I separated in 1997 and he filed bankruptcy shortly afterward. I just received a letter from a collection agency demanding payment of the loan and almost an equal amount in interest. They claim they have a judgement against me. According to the clerk of court, although my name was listed as a party in the proceedings the court only awarded a judgement against my late husband. My name is not on the judgement at all. I am disabled, and my only income is SS and a small Civil Service Death Benefit. Since the statute of limitations has passed and my name was not on the initial judgement, and my husband has passed away, is there any way the creditor can get a judgement against me now, or sue me?
    1 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Bill
    What happens next is that I think I will move to North Carolina and open a law office, because apparently there are not enough attorneys practicing law there. Your ex-spouse was foolish during the wind-down of his business when he did not consult with an attorney to help protect himself from the actions of his business' creditors. Your attending a hearing without representation is understandable because you thought the divorce and your ex-husband's sworn statement would insulate you -- but unfortunately you were mistaken. Stop trying to practice law yourself. Remember the adage, "He Who Represents Himself Has A Fool For A Client." Take all of your documents relating to your divorce and the judgment against you and see an attorney. You will probably need to join the parade and file a lawsuit against your ex-husband. You may need to file for bankruptcy, too. However, before you run down to the courthouse with a stack of Chapter 7 or 13 forms, consult with an attorney.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2009
    Kris
    My ex husband's business failed (never filed bankruptcy) and has had several law suits against him. He has never attended any hearings, hired an attorney, etc. Unfortunately, my signature was on a guarantee for a supply company and thru the usual legal process, I ended up with a judgment against me. I live in NC. Can I appeal this judgment? Would it do any good? I didn't have an attorney. I had paperwork (property settlement agreement, swore statement from my ex stating the debt was solely his) but judge said that was bwtn the two of us. What happens next? THANKS!!!
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2009
    Bill
    Without knowing more, it's impossible for me to say what your creditors may do if you file for Chapter 7. In fact you may not qualify for Chapter 7. Under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, a debtor is required to complete a "means test" to determine whether the debtor qualifies for relief under chapter 7. See this handy online means test to see if you qualify for Chapter 7.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2009
    satra
    I owe a number of credit card debts. I am unable to pay for them due to my unemployment and no other income. I have about 10 cc and they all have balances totalling about 20k. At this point I can't seem to make minimal payments. Should I file for chapter 7 ? I really dont want to make a debt consolidation. If I file chapter 7, Will some of the creditor still will file Objectionable-Discharge in chapter 7 ? thanks in advance.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2009
    Bill
    My answer is going to have a bit of an edge to it because I sense, and I apologize if I'm mistaken, that you are being a bit passive about dealing with the problem. You had a great opportunity to learn about your rights and options when you consulted with the bankruptcy attorney, and it would be helpful to know why bankruptcy is not an option for you. Let's answer your question. First, you need to educate yourself about your options. Second, you need to understand the consequences of each. Third, you need a plan. Finally, you need to implement the plan. For Part 1, learn about debt consolidation in general and debt consolidation loans. These might be options for you if bankruptcy is not in the cards. For Part 2, read Collections Agencies, Collections Laws and Your State's Statute of Limitations , which outlines the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, among other facts about debt collection. Keep in mind you can negotiate your debt yourself. For Part 3 and 4, you need to pick a course of action based on your circumstances, and work the plan. If you follow the links to the articles I mentioned and create a plan, you will be in control of what happens to you.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2009
    J
    I have several credit cards that we have not been able to pay for over 10 months. Some of them are threatening to file judgements against us. They have offered settlements which, if I had the money, would be great deals!! Unfortunately we are not able to come up with the money at this time. I have read some of the forums and I'm afraid they will come to our house and take inventory of our personal things and take what ever they don't feel we need to survive. I have read that NC does not allow garnishing wages. We have gone to see a bankruptcy attorney but unfortunately that won't work for us. What's going to happen to us?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2009
    Bill
    C Grant, yes they can, but whether they do is a different question. Massachusetts law presumes that the judgment is satisfied if 20 years have passed, although it can be renewed. NC is 10 years, as you know. The NC judgment holder has the right to renew the judgment in a Massachusetts court, although I think their chances of going to the expense of paying a Massachusetts law firm to file the renewal with a Massachusetts court seem slim in light of the size of the judgment and the amount of time that's passed.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2009
    Bill
    Gary, under Connecticut law, some judgments can be enforced for 10 years and others for 20. You need to take your information to a Connecticut attorney who will be able to answer your question based on your particular facts.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2009
    gary
    How long does a civil judgement last in connecticut?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2009
    C
    I have a judgment from 1990 in NC that has been renewed. I voluntarily returned a car I could not pay for but wa charged a $1500 'fee' I could not repay. I now live in MA and the second renawal will expire soon. Can they renew it again?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2009
    Amy
    What is the best route for trying to settle a civil judgement?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2009
    Bill
    Speak to the lender that filed the case and won the judgment against you, to see if they are willing to accept a settlement. It is unlikely that you will be successful as they already have a judgment and will insist that you pay back the complete amount as ordered by the court, but it does not hurt to try.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2009
    Bill
    While it cannot be said with certainty, but they can domesticate the judgment in NC, and try to enforce the judgment as per NC law.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2009
    Keith
    Bill,I have two unpaid judgements from 03 & 05 from the city of Chi. I now live in NC (2yrs) Can they garnish my wages or sav. acct. here in NC? What can they possibly do? Thanks
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2009
    Bill
    Typically judgments last for 10 years. You can pull your credit report and see if it is there or you can request your judgment holder (creditor) to "validate" the debt judgment. I hope that it is expired, that would be great for you!
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2009
    Krisine
    I had a judgment against me in 1997 that is unsatisfied. How do I find out if it's expired?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2009
    Bill
    That is really up to the lender, but they usually tend to wait till the account is charged off. They might even start sooner. You will need to consult with a bankruptcy attorney. Only a bankruptcy attorney will be able to see if you qualify for a chapter 7 or a chapter 13 and which of your accounts can be included.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2009
    Marty
    How long before a finance company can take me to court? This is the first month that I will be late with my payment and I have sent them letters explaining that payment will be sent as soon as I am able to. I am thinking of filing for bankrupcy, but I don't know if I can include this personal loans,my truck which is under my name and my ex-friend's name, credit cards that he took out and authorized me to use them. I have a debt of about $30,000.00.
    0 Votes