How is a judgment perfected?

At the conclusion of a lawsuit or settlement, the court will issue a judgment ordering the losing party to pay or satisfy the judgment. After the court’s decision, there are a few steps to perfecting the judgment. Some states require that a Notice of Entry be sent to the losing party or judgment debtor. A Notice of Entry let's the losing party know that a judgment has been entered against them. The person then has a set period of time to pay the judgment. Until this form is filed, the judgment is neither cleared nor perfect and cannot be considered satisfied.

Steps for Perfecting a Judgment

Once the Notice of Entry is signed and filed, the judgment can be perfected. Although the specific steps vary from state to state, the first is always to have the judgment perfected. It must be certified by the Clerk of Court. Some states call this docketing, which is another form of filing. To accomplish this, it is important to make certain that the court’s written decision of judgment has been signed by the judge and provided to the clerk of the court.

Generally, the court will retain the original and supply a "conformed copy" to the judgment creditor or winning party. Next the judgment must be recorded with the Recorder of Deeds or that office’s equivalent. This has the effect of making the judgment a lien of record against any real property owned by the judgment debtor. It can now be considered perfected.

Perfecting a Judgment and Other Outcomes

In many states, Notice of Entry of the judgment must be given to the debtor or losing party. The date that the order is issued often determines the time period which the debtor has if he wishes to file any appeal. Another option is that the debtor will pay the judgment. This person can do so the same day of the judgment or soon after, depending upon the circumstances. If this happens, the judgment is satisfied and a satisfaction of judgment form is filed with a court to indicate that a judgment has been satisfactorily resolved. Typically, this does not happen until the judgment is paid in full.