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How Long Does a Judgment Last?

George Simons | December 07, 2023

George Simons
Co-Founder of SoloSuit
George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons is the co-founder and CEO of SoloSuit. He has helped Americans protect over $1 billion from predatory debt lawsuits. George graduated from BYU Law school in 2020 with a JD-MBA. In his spare time, George likes to cook, because he likes to eat.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

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. Judgements have different expirations depending on where you live, but they typically last three to seven years. Use SoloSuit to avoid a judgment and win your lawsuit.

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: Judgments generally last three to seven years, but they can also be valid for over 20 years in some states.

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

What is a judgment?

When you owe a debt, creditors and debt collectors will probably reach out asking you to pay it off. If they are 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 a judgment 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. 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.

Here are some possible ways creditors and debt collectors might be allowed to take what you owe if they are granted a default judgment against you:

  • 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.

On the other hand, 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.

Avoid a judgment by responding to your lawsuit in court.

How long does a judgment 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 judgment expiration by state, or in other words, each state's statute of limitations for judgment debts:

Judgment Statute of Limitations

Debt Type Deadline in 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 a judgment 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, judgments will give you a weak credit score that takes time to rebuild.

You’re probably wondering, “How long does a judgment stay on your credit report?” The short answer is at least seven years.

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. More specifically, FCRA §605(a)(2) states:

“Civil suits, civil judgments, and records of arrest that from date of entry, antedate the report by more than seven years or until the governing statute of limitations has expired, whichever is the longer period.”

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.

Let’s take a look at an example.

Example: Joey got sued for a credit card debt in California, but he didn’t respond in time and lost by default judgment. The judgment was reported to the credit reporting agencies, and Joey’s credit took a serious hit. Joey does some research on the SoloSuit blog and finds out that the statute of limitations on judgments in California is ten years. This means that the judgment will remain on Joey’s credit report for ten years instead of the seven years that is listed as a general rule in the FCRA.

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 dispute process online, by mail, or by phone. Here are the credit bureau’s mailing addresses where you can send a dispute letter:

Credit Reporting Agencies Addresses

Agency Address
Equifax Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion TransUnion LLC Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

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 if you are dealing with major debt, but there are some ways, both obvious and creative, to make your life better. You can:

  • Hope the judgment expires.
  • Pay the judgment.
  • File for bankruptcy.
  • Avoid a judgment by responding to the case.

Now, let’s take a minute to break down each of these options in detail.

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. So, 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 off the judgment, 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.

Avoid a judgment by responding to the case

Finally, the first and most effective way to handle debt is to respond to creditors and debt collectors when they initially start contacting you. In fact, you can avoid a lawsuit altogether by sending a Debt Validation Letter and forcing them to prove that you actually owe the exact amount they claim.

If the debt cannot be validated, you’re off the hook.

On the other hand, if the debt is validated and you get taken to court, the #1 most effective way to avoid a judgment is to respond to the lawsuit by filing a written Answer into the case.

Draft and file an Answer to a debt lawsuit in minutes, without hiring a lawyer.

Check out this video to learn more about how to respond to a debt lawsuit:

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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"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

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