Under Missouri law, a judgment is considered “active” (collectible) for ten years. This includes a monetary judgment as well as any real property liens resulting from that judgment. Whether the judgment can impose a lien depends upon where it was entered:
- A judgment from a Circuit Court in Missouri automatically imposes a lien upon the judgment debtor’s real property located within the county in which the judgment was entered. 517.151, RSMo.
- A judgment from an Associate Circuit Court in Missouri imposes a lien upon real property within the county in which the judgment was entered if transcribed to the Circuit Court in that county. 517.141, RSMo.
- A judgment from a federal court or other state court may become a lien on real property if transcribed in the Circuit Court where the real property is located. 511.440, RSMo.
- A judgment obtained in a small claims court may not become a lien on real property. 517.151, RSMo.
Section 516.350.1, RSMo, provides that a judgment is conclusively presumed paid after ten years from the original date the judgment was entered or from the last payment made on the judgment. This presumption applies to all judgments entered in any court within the United States except for judgments awarding maintenance, child support, or property division in connection with a dissolution proceeding if distribution is mandated by the making of payments over time in the future. The presumption also applies such that it extinguishes any real property liens created as a result of the judgment.
It is essential for a judgment creditor to be aware of this statutory presumption and the 10-year timeline because once the ten years has expired, there is no relief for the creditor. The statute and the related caselaw in Missouri is clear that “[o]nce the conclusive presumption arises, the judgment cannot be revived and no suit can be maintained upon it.” Pirtle v. Cook, 956 S.W.2d 235, 238 (Mo. en banc 1997). In other words, a judgment creditor has no right to bring an action against the judgment debtor or engage in any other efforts to collect on the judgment after the ten years has expired. Indeed, at that time, the judgment creditor is considered to have been paid in full.
There is a procedure under Missouri law, however, whereby a judgment creditor can seek an extension of the ten years during which a judgment is active. To do so, the judgment creditor must file a motion to revive the judgment in the court which entered it. Importantly, the motion must be filed before the ten years expires. Upon the filing of a motion to revive judgment, the court must issue an order to the judgment debtor directing the debtor to show cause why the judgment should not be revived. If the judgment debtor fails to appear and show cause why the judgment should not be revived, the court must enter an order reviving the judgment.
If the court enters an order reviving the judgment, the judgment will be continued for another period of time, during which the judgment creditor can file subsequent, additional motions to revive as needed. See § 511.430, RSMo. Because Section 511.430 still refers to the three-year period for which real property liens were considered active under the old rule, it seems the legislature still needs to amend this provision so as to be consistent with the ten-year rule now in place.
Navigating this area of the law requires careful attention to statutory mandates in order to maintain collectability of your judgment and active status of your lien upon a judgment debtor’s real property. We here at CECB can assist you with this process so you arrive at your ultimate destination – collection of your judgment.