Money judgments are awards issued by a judge for a certain sum of money. If you win a judgment, it is valid for ten years in North Carolina. Before the end of that ten-year period, however, you may ask the court to extend the judgment.
How Do Money Judgments Work?
The judgment becomes a lien against any land owned by the person against whom the judgment was awarded. This property must be located within the county or counties where the judgment is docketed. The lien also extends to any land the defendant acquires in that same county for the same period. This means the defendant cannot sell that land without first paying your judgment. If the defendant pays you directly, you must go to the Clerk’s office and tell the Clerk that you have been paid. That way, the lien on the defendant’s land can be removed.
If the defendant does not pay you, you may ask the court to use a process called execution. An execution is an order to the sheriff to seize and sell land and personal property owned by the defendant to satisfy the judgment. If you pay the required fee, you may ask the Clerk for an execution as often as you wish during the period the judgment is in effect.
The North Carolina Constitution provides gives you the right to keep certain land and personal property away from money judgments. These are called “exemptions”. Therefore, after any money judgments are entered, you must get two forms from the Clerk of Superior Court. The first is a “Notice of Rights”, and the second is a “Motion to Claim Exempt Property”. You must serve these on the defendant. If you do not hear from the defendant after twenty days from the date of service, you may go to the Clerk and have an execution issued. If you disagree with the exemptions claimed, you may object and have a district court judge determine which property is exempt from execution.
You will have to pay a fee to issue the execution and a fee to carry it out. Those costs will be added to the judgment to be paid by the defendant. If you know of any property that belongs to the defendant, you should give the sheriff a description and indicate where it may be found. The sheriff will sell any nonexempt property that can be found and turn the proceeds over to the court. The court will then give you the money collected.