When a creditor files a lawsuit against you and prevails, the creditor will obtain a judgment in their favor. A judgment is a legal document which states that a certain monetary amount is owed by you to the creditor. In Florida, a judgment is valid for at least 20 years, during which time, it will continuously accrue interest. A judgment gives the creditor the power to forcefully collect the money that is owed to them, whether that be by a wage or bank garnishment, or even via the levy of personal property such as motor vehicles and real estate.
So, how does a creditor find out what they can forcefully collect from you? In Florida, a judgment usually contains language which orders the defendant to complete under oath Florida Rule of Civil Procedure Form 1.977. This form is also known as “The Fact Information Sheet.” The Fact Information Sheet must be filled out along with any requested documents and sent back to the judgment creditor or their attorney within 45 days.
The Fact Information Sheet is a very powerful tool that can inform creditors right off the bat what assets you have so they can figure out how to take them from you. The Fact Information Sheet is a sworn financial statement which requests information about your employer, salary, bank accounts, vehicles, and real property. Aside from filling out this information, the Fact Information Sheet also requires that certain documents be turned over to the creditor, such as paystubs, bank statements, tax returns, and titles to vehicles and real property. In other words, responding to the Fact Information Sheet is the same as handing over to the creditor all the information regarding your collectible assets on a golden platter.
Simply deciding not to fill out and return the Fact Information Sheet is not an option. The judgment is a court order that directs the Fact Information Sheet to be completed. If it has not been completed and returned to the creditor within 45 days, the creditor can take legal action against you. Usually, the creditor will file a Motion to Compel you to complete the Fact Information Sheet and an order is entered by the judge directing that the Fact Information Sheet be completed within a certain amount of time. If you still fail to respond, the creditor can file a second Motion to Compel and at that time, the judge can even issue a warrant for your arrest for being in contempt of court for your failure to respond to the Fact Information Sheet!
Having a judgment entered against you and having to fill out a Fact Information Sheet on your own can be daunting. It is important to be proactive and try to resolve the judgment before the creditor obtains all your financial information and commences forced collection of your assets. I encourage you to speak with an experienced attorney to figure out how best to resolve the judgment, whether it be by entering into a voluntary payment plan with the creditor or even filing a bankruptcy.
If you need assistance resolving a judgment or dealing with a debt collection lawsuit, contact the professionals at Holland Law Group today at (941) 744-5450. We offer a free consultation and are available to assist Floridians across the state, whether you live in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, or anywhere else in between.