The modern court system in the State of Texas provides many protections for judgment debtors and navigating the post-judgment collection process can be overwhelming whether the judgment is from state court, the federal district court, or out-of-state and you still need to domesticate your judgment in Texas.
One of the best tools in your toolbox for making sure you receive the money that is yours by right is by filing an abstract of judgment. Once you have received your judgment, you should do this right away.
What Is an Abstract of Judgment in Texas?
Think of an abstract of judgment as a way of recording your story, permanently, for everyone to see. This includes the debtor and people who do business with the debtor, whose property, due to the abstract of judgment, is no longer free and clear.
An abstract of judgment is a written summary which states how much money a losing defendant owes to the winning plaintiff in a lawsuit. This person who won the lawsuit and is owed the debt is the “judgment creditor.” The person who lost the lawsuit and owes the debt is the “judgment debtor.”
In addition to the amount of the judgment award, the abstract of judgment will include the rate of interest, court costs, and any specific orders that the judgment debtor must obey. Per Texas Property Code §52.003, it must also include the birthdate of the defendant/judgment debtor, the debtor’s driver’s license number and social security number, the debtor’s address, and the creditor’s address.
Abstract of judgment forms are available in each of Texas’ counties for you and your attorney to fill out. For example, Harris County maintains a form for inputting all required information, called the Request for Abstract of Judgement Form, which can be accessed here.
The purpose of the abstract of judgment is to create a public record that automatically creates a lien or claim on any real estate property owned or later acquired by the judgment debtor in the county where the abstract is recorded. The only exception is where the property is “exempt’ – or out of reach – for a specific reason, such as being the debtor’s residence.
How Long Does an Abstract of Judgment Last in Texas?
The abstract creates a lien on the judgement debtor’s nonexempt real property in the county where the abstract has been recorded, pursuant to Texas Property Code §52.001. The lien continues for ten (10) years from the date of recording and indexing with the county, except in cases where the judgment becomes dormant during that period. See Texas Property Code §52.006.
A judgment becomes dormant where no writ of execution is filed attempting to collect on the judgment. If no writ of execution has been entered during the 10-year life of the abstract, your attorney can revive the judgment for an additional two years and start the process anew. See Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §34.001; §34.006.
How to File an Abstract of Judgment in Texas
Most Texas counties have a readily-available form to fill out with the county clerk in order to file your abstract of judgment. Each county has its own fee, though the fees are relatively small. Once you file your abstract, the county clerk is required by law to immediately record in that county’s real property records.
The judgment lien that is generated by the abstract creates practical difficulties for the debtor’s real property whether it is owned in that county or later acquired in that county. The filing of the abstract ensures that even if the property is currently exempted, such as the debtor’s primary residence or “homestead,” the lien will attach the moment the debtor stops living there. Also, if the debtor dies, the heirs who inherit the debtor’s property will be responsible for the lien. See Texas Probate Code §37.
Release of Abstract of Judgment
A release of an abstract of judgment can occur where the debtor files an Affidavit of Release of a Judgment Lien (sworn statement) showing that the real property in question is the debtor’s homestead and meets certain legally-established criteria set forth in Texas Property Code §41.002, which can be up to 10 acres for an urban home, 100 acres for a single adult rural home and 200 acres for family rural home. These forms for the release of an abstract of judgment in Texas are also available online from most counties.
Your attorney can contest the release of abstract of judgment Texas form if it is untrue or another reason exists why the property should not be released.
Contact the Law Office of Seth Kretzer for Post-Judgment Collection Help
If you or your client has won a judgment, you will need a lawyer with specific experience enforcing judgment liens in Texas and who has the right knowledge and resources to help protect your rights. Call Seth Kretzer at 713-775-3050 or contact us online today to discuss your case.
Seth is on your side and knows how to collect on a judgment in Texas. Additionally, he has experience with countless creditors facing the challenges you are now confronting filing your abstract of judgment and enforcing judgment debts. He truly understands your situation and will do everything in his power to help you!