How Long Does a Judgment Last?

George Simons

March 04, 2021

Can't debt collectors just let it go already?

Summary: Were you sued and then had a judgment filed against you? Even though you don't have the funds to pay, it seems like the order is never going away. Have you seen no consquences and wondering if you're in the clear? Find out how long a judgment lasts in this post.

A judgment is trying to ruin your life. It's no joke. It sucks.

Bad things do end, though. How long does a judgment last? That's a crucial question.

Short answer: Three to seven years is common, but it could be over 20 years.

Whether you've already got a judgment or you're trying to avoid one, read on to learn more about what exactly a judgment means for you, how long it'll follow you around, and ways to end the ugly relationship.

What is a judgment?

If the creditor is unsuccessful at making you pay through phone calls and letters, they may file a lawsuit. A judgment is the final decision that comes after this lawsuit.

Not only will it tell you what you owe and how you'll pay it, it'll also give the creditor certain powers to collect money from you.

Those powers will differ depending on the severity of the judgment. Here are some possible ways the creditor might be allowed to take what you owe:

  • Property levies: The creditor can request a “writ of execution” from the court, which will allow officials to sell your possessions at a public auction.
  • Property lien: The creditor will officially own specific valuables — like the title to your property — and will be involved if you try to sell.
  • Wage garnishment: Your employer will be informed of your debt, and they'll be required to take a portion of your paycheck out every week to pay the creditor instead.
  • Bank account garnishment: The creditor will be given money straight from your bank account.

A judgment is the worst when you don't show up to trial. If you're not there, the court is allowed to make a judgment without taking into account your side of the story. You'll get a “default judgment,” which basically means the creditor gets everything they asked for.

A default judgment will be the most expensive for you. If you're tempted to just ignore the lawsuit, don't worry, SoloSuit makes it easy to respond. Then make sure you show up, and offer arguments and compromises for a more manageable judgment.

A stipulated judgment may give you a little more control. You and the creditor will agree on something less than what they originally asked for. Because they would prefer to get some money from you rather than none at all, you might agree to pay a smaller lump sum, or you might arrange a payment plan.

File a response to debt collection lawsuits with SoloSuit and win in court.

How long does it last?

So, now that it's happened, how long does a judgment last?

Every state has a different time limit for every kind of debt. This time limit is called a statute of limitations. Here's a list of each state's statute of limitations for judgment debts specifically.

Statute of Limitations for a Judgment

State

Number of Years

Alabama

20

Arizona

4

Arkansas

10

California

10

Colorado

-

Connecticut

20

Delaware

5

District of Columbia

12

Florida

20

Georgia

5

Hawaii

10

Idaho

6

Illinois

20

Indiana

20

Iowa

10 or 20

Kansas

-

Kentucky

15

Louisiana

10

Maine

20

Maryland

12

Massachusetts

6

Michigan

6 or 10

Minnesota

10

Mississippi

7

Missouri

10

Montana

10

Nebraska

5

Nevada

6

New Hampshire

20

New Jersey

20

New Mexico

14

New York

20

North Carolina

10

North Dakota

10

Ohio

21

Oklahoma

3

Oregon

10

Pennsylvania

4

Rhode Island

20

South Carolina

10

South Dakota

10 or 20

Tennessee

10

Texas

-

Utah

8

Vermont

6 or 10

Virginia

10 or 20

Washington

10

West Virginia

10

Wisconsin

6 or 20

Wyoming

5



How does the statute of limitations work?

Once the statute of limitations expires, you no longer owe the debt. The judgment will become “dormant,” and creditors won't be allowed to harass you anymore.

But a creditor can always renew a judgment before it expires. And when they do, the countdown starts all over again. You can also restart the statute of limitations by making a payment. Basically, any time anyone interacts with the judgment, the clock goes back to zero.

How does it affect my credit report?

The effects of judgment can be felt even after the statute of limitations has expired or it has been paid off. For example, it'll give you a weak credit score that will take time to rebuild.

Even after the statute of limitations is past, your judgment can live on in your credit report.

A lot of people are confused about this. It's because the statute of limitations is often confused with what's called a credit reporting time limit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states that a judgment will stay on your credit report for at least seven years. This number is the same across states because the FCRA is a federal law.

So, even if your statute of limitations is less than seven years, your judgment will still show up on your credit report for that full seven-year period. Once seven years are up, the judgment will finally fall off your credit report.

If your state's statute of limitations is longer than seven years, the mark will stay as long as the statute of limitations.

By the way, while making a payment does restart the clock on your statute of limitations, it won't extend the credit reporting time limit. So don't let that stop you from making a payment!

Protect your credit score by filing a response with SoloSuit.

What if my credit report has a mistake?

Say your credit report still has a ding even after the statute of limitations and credit reporting time limit have passed. (Or maybe you paid the judgment. Congrats!) In that case, you can dispute the error.

First, figure out which credit bureau you're dealing with. That's the company that collects credit information. The main ones are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Once you find the right one, you should be able to start the process online, by mail, or by phone.

With luck, it'll be set right quickly, and then you can ask that credit bureau to spread the news about the change. They'll contact any company that saw your credit report in the last six months. Hopefully, you'll never have to ask, “How long does a judgment last?” again!

Options for those in debt

You may feel like you've been cornered, but there are some ways, both obvious and creative, to make your life better.

Hope the judgment expires

If the statute of limitations runs out and the creditor doesn't renew your judgment, you are free.

But you might be wondering, how can I wait out those years if a creditor can collect through garnishment and other powerful means?

By law, they can't take everything from you. Debt collection laws make sure you have enough to live on. So, they'll be hard-pressed to remove the roof over your head or the car you drive to work. (Unless it's fancy, like a Rolls Royce — they'll snatch that from you real quick.)

The point is that creditors can only claim possessions over a certain value, and there is a limit to garnishment. Technically, it is possible to wait the judgment out.

Just remember, judgments accrue interest. Creditors sometimes use this to their advantage. Even if your situation doesn't allow them to take money from you right now, they may keep renewing the judgment again and again, waiting for the day you'll have the means to pay up.

Before you think about buying that nice car, find out whether your judgment is still active.

Hopefully, the creditor will just give up. But they have their own reason for asking, “How long does a judgment last?” Accruing interest gives creditors a reason to be persistent.

Pay the judgment

If you can pay it, you might as well. It'll nip interest in the bud, and you'll get a head start rebuilding your credit score.

You'll also get to take off a huge mental and emotional load. You'll be able to make money and buy things you like without worrying about someone taking them away from you.

Once you pay the judgment, you'll want to make sure the creditor files a Satisfaction of Judgment with the clerk's office. Then you'll be officially cleared of debt and anything else the creditor had on you, like a property lien.

Paying also puts you back in good graces with the court. If the creditor doesn't cooperate with filing a Satisfaction of Judgment, this time the court will make them pay you!

Respond to debt collectors fast with SoloSuit.

File for bankruptcy

Bankruptcy isn't an appealing word, but it could give you a fresh start.

It wipes out certain types of debt. It usually won't affect child support debt, tax debt, or student loans, but it'll take care of things like credit card debt or medical bills.

Here's a key point: If you file for bankruptcy after a judgment, you may be able to recover what you lost through wage garnishment. Nice.

Another key point, but not as fun: If you file after a judgment, the debt will be canceled, but not the lien.

If bankruptcy is sounding like the right road for you, keep in mind that while a judgment can come off your credit report in seven years, the minimum time for bankruptcy is ten.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James


Get Started


>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection Guides for Other States

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.

Guides on How to Beat Every Debt Collector

Being sued by a different debt collector? We're making guides on how to beat each one.

Win Against Credit Card Companies

Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.

Going to Court for Credit Card Debt — Key Tips

How to Negotiate Credit Card Debts

How to Settle a Credit Card Debt Lawsuit — Ultimate Guide

Get Answers to These FAQs

Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.

Why do debt collectors block their phone numbers?

How long do debt collectors take to respond to debt validation letters?

What are the biggest debt collector companies in the US?

Is Zombie Debt Still a Problem in 2019?

SoloSuit FAQ

If a car is repossessed, do I still owe the debt?

Is Portfolio Recovery Associates Legit?

Is There a Judgment Against Me Without my Knowledge?

Should I File Bankruptcy Before or After a Judgment?

What is a default judgment?— What do I do?

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills — What Do I Do?

What Happens If Someone Sues You and You Have No Money?

What Happens If You Never Answer Debt Collectors?

What Happens When a Debt Is Sold to a Collection Agency

What is a Stipulated Judgment?

What is the Deadline for a Defendant's Answer to Avoid a Default Judgment?

Can a Judgement Creditor Take my Car?

Can I Settle a Debt After Being Served?

Can I Stop Wage Garnishment?

Can You Appeal a Default Judgement?

Do I Need a Debt Collection Defense Attorney?

Do I Need a Payday Loans Lawyer?

Do student loans go away after 7 years? — Student Loan Debt Guide

Am I Responsible for My Spouse's Medical Debt?

Should I Marry Someone With Debt?

Can a Debt Collector Leave a Voicemail?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

What Happens If a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

Can You Serve Someone with a Collections Lawsuit at Their Work?

What Is a Warrant in Debt?

How Many Times Can a Judgment be Renewed in Oklahoma?

Can an Eviction Be Reversed?

Does Debt Consolidation Have Risks?

Learn More With These Additional Resources:

Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.

How to Make a Debt Validation Letter - The Ultimate Guide

How to Make a Motion to Compel Arbitration Without an Attorney

How to Stop Wage Garnishment — Everything You Need to Know

How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector (Ultimate Guide)

Defending Yourself in Court Against a Debt Collector

Tips on you can to file an FDCPA lawsuit against a debt collection agency

Advice on how to answer a summons for debt collection.

Effective strategies for how to get back on track after a debt lawsuit

New Hampshire Statute of Limitations on Debt

Sample Cease and Desist Letter Against Debt Collectors

The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah

West Virginia Statute of Limitations on Debt

What debt collectors cannot do — FDCPA explained

Defending Yourself in Court Against Debt Collector

How to Liquidate Debt

Arkansas Statute of Limitations on Debt

You're Drowning in Debt — Here's How to Swim

Help! I'm Being Sued by My Debt Collector

How to Make a Motion to Vacate Judgment

How to Answer Summons for Debt Collection in Vermont

North Dakota Statute of Limitations on Debt

ClearPoint Debt Management Review

Indiana Statute of Limitations on Debt

Oregon Eviction Laws - What They Say

CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review

How to Write a Re-Aging Debt Letter

How to Appear in Court by Phone

How to Use the Doctrine of Unclean Hands