10.08.6 Judgments: Duration of the Lien Period

A judgment lien in the state of Indiana results from the entering and indexing of the judgment docket with a final judgment, a statement or transcript of a final judgment, or warrant for delinquent state taxes. The duration of a judgment lien is ten (10) years for a tax warrant or from the rendition of the judgment. Taylor v. McGrew, (1902) 29 Ind. App. 324, 64 N.E.651; I.C. §§ 6-8.1-8-2, 34-55-9-2.

Ordinarily, the judgment lien continues in existence and its validity and priority is preserved for the duration of the ten years. However, the ten year life of the judgment may be extended by agreement of the parties, any proceedings (for example: appeals, injunctions, etc?), or the death of the judgment debtor. In Joyce v. Joyce, (Ind. App. 1994), 627 N.E.2d 825, the Appellate Court determined that the settlement agreement restraints on the ex-husband's ability to enforce a judgment until the sale of the marital residence, death of the ex-wife, or the children's emancipation constituted an agreement of the parties to prolong the start of the judgment's ten year lien life. The automatic stay provisions of a bankruptcy action are an example of a proceeding that extends the time for a judgment creditor to enforce a judgment lien. See 11 USC § 362(a)(4). However, an existing judgment lien on real property owned by the debtor at the time of the bankruptcy is not affected by the discharge of the debtor (unless otherwise specifically disposed of by an avoidance order of the court). Creditors cannot enforce a judgment lien against a deceased debtor's estate until three (3) months have elapsed since the decedent's death or as authorized by the court. IC § 29-1-14-16.

In addition to the statutory time termination, a judgment lien may also be terminated through any of the following:

  • The payment or satisfaction of the judgment;
  • The partial release of the property from the lien of the judgment by the judgment creditor;
  • The proper foreclosure of a prior lien.
  • An execution sale and return for the full amount of the judgment;
  • A final order vacating the judgment;
  • The reversal of the judgment in appeal proceedings; or
  • By operation of law.