An abstract is a summary of a larger document. An abstract of judgement is a summary of a legal proceeding.
In civil judgements (lawsuits) the judge’s decision may be many pages long and encompass a variety of concerns. An abstract concerns the necessary next steps that the judge demands, whether that includes vacating a home, paying restitution, attending a class, or paying the court fees of the other party. An abstract, when certified, is a suitable substitute for the court’s lengthy decision and can be used to execute the judge’s orders.
Criminal cases may be summarized in an abstract of judgement but the documents are more commonly used for civil settlements, particularly small claims court.
If you have won a financial settlement against another person, you must find a way to collect it. A certified copy of the abstract of judgement, issued by the clerk of the court where your case was decided, is the tool used to record the judgement and to collect what is owed. According to the NY State Unified Court System, the first step is recording the judgement in the county clerk’s office. After this, the debtor’s assets and personal information should be examined for ways to collect the judgement amount.
An abstract of judgement can be used to garnish the debtor’s wages, to stop his bank transactions, and to potentially force the sale of assets. An enforcement officer should be hired to execute some of these steps, but providing information about the debtor’s place of work, bank, and home address are helpful.
One way to find records of a debtor’s assets is through Infotracer.com which may list homes, boats, and other valuable assets, as well as providing information about the person’s place of work, home value, and more.
This document from the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs says that following a court judgement, a sheriff’s deputy can be hired to physically collect payment from the debtor’s place of business (if he is a business owner) by taking cash from the cash register and staying in the business until the debt is paid.
In Florida, deputies seize assets of debtors and have them sold at auction. The sheriff’s department costs are subtracted from the proceeds, then the creditor may collect the remainder. A judgement lien is good for five years here, and can be renewed for the same period.
This detailed description of judgement abstracts and resulting liens says that the original court judgement is in effect for 20 years, and that term may be extended for 20 more years.