Judgment Liens in Oklahoma

Judgment liens have serious consequences for individuals, businesses, and real estate. A judgment lien is a powerful tool; it allows creditors to secure the repayment of a judgment debt by obtaining a legal claim on the debtor’s property.

Here is a helpful guide for how to create, remove, and enforce a judgment lien in the State of Oklahoma:

What is a Judgment Lien?

A judgment debt is created by a party to a court case winning a court judgment in their favor which has a financial aspect to it. The party who obtained the court judgment is known as the judgment creditor, and the party who owes the judgment creditor is known as the judgment debtor.

The judgment creditor may file a copy of the judgment with the appropriate county or state office to create a judgment lien. The written judgment secures the judgment creditor’s claim for repayment of the judgment debt. A lien essentially gives the creditor a legal right to the debtor’s property, which can include real estate, personal belongings, vehicles, and even bank accounts.

How is a Judgment Lien Created?

The process of creating a judgment lien involves several steps:

  1. Filing a Lawsuit: To start the process, the claimant (plaintiff) initiates a lawsuit against the opposing party (defendant) by filing a petition with the court clerk. Within the petition, the claimant usually makes some sort of claim that the defendant has not paid a debt to the plaintiff. 
  2. Obtaining a Judgment: If the court rules in favor of the claimant, the judge will sign a judgment against the opposing party which memorializes and documents the amount owed on the debt.
  3. Recording or Filing the Judgment: The creditor must record the judgment with the appropriate government agency, usually with the county clerk’s office. However, the judgment creditor may want to consider recording or filing the judgment with other offices depending on the type of judgment or debt. This step establishes a public record of the debt owed by the judgment debtor.
  4. Creating the Lien: Unless there is a specific law or statute which determines how to create the lien, a judgment creditor automatically receives a judgment lien on the debtor’s property by recording the judgment in the appropriate place. This lien makes it difficult for the debtor to sell or transfer the property without satisfying the debt. See our general guide for real estate liens for more information on how to create a lien.

Implications of Judgment Liens

The presence of a judgment lien can have various implications for debtors:

  • Negative Impact on Credit: Judgment liens are a red flag on credit reports and can significantly lower a debtor’s credit score, making it challenging to secure new credit,  loans, or leases.
  • Limitations on Property Transactions: If a judgment debtor wishes to sell or refinance a property that is covered by a judgment lien, the lien must be satisfied before the transaction can proceed (or as part of the transaction). A lien holder must specifically release a lien.
  • Possible Property Seizure through Lien Foreclosure: In some cases, if the judgment debt remains unpaid, the judgment creditor may have a right to seek a court order to enforce the lien by seizing and selling the debtor’s property to satisfy the judgment debt through lien foreclosure proceedings or other methods.

Can a Defendant Also Be a Lien Creditor? 

Yes. Any party who obtains a money judgment in court can file a copy of their lien to become a judgment creditor and lien creditor. Any party to litigation may make a lien claim. It does not necessarily matter whether the claiming party was a plaintiff, defendant, or other position within the litigation.

Resolving or Removing a Judgment Lien

Dealing with a judgment lien is frustrating. However, there are several pathways to resolve or remove the lien from property:

  • Satisfy the Debt: The most straightforward way to remove a judgment lien is to pay off the judgment debt in full. The creditor is obligated to release the lien on the debt is fully satisfied (paid off).
  • Negotiate with the Creditor: Debtors should consider negotiating with the creditor if paying the full debt is not feasible. In some cases, creditors may accept a lesser amount to release the lien in order for more prompt payment.
  • File for Bankruptcy: Filing for bankruptcy puts an automatic stay on all collection activities, including judgment liens. Depending on the type of bankruptcy, some judgment liens may be discharged entirely.
  • Claim Exemptions: Certain types of property may be exempt from enforcement of judgment liens. For example, a judgment debtor’s primary residence is exempt from execution in Oklahoma if the property meets certain criteria and the judgment debt is not a mortgage. 
  • Vacate or Appeal the Judgment: If you believe the judgment was obtained improperly or unfairly, you may explore options to have the judgment vacated or appeal the decision in court.

Enforcing the Judgment Lien

Judgment creditors can leverage the judgment lien to obtain payment and satisfaction of the judgment debt, either in full or in part. When all else fails, the judgment creditor can utilize state statutes and court processes to seize judgment debtor property and force a sale of the same as a last resort; this ability is based on the debtor’s assets and state law exemptions from such forced sales. Some debtors don’t have adequate assets to satisfy the judgment debt – attorneys frequently call these debtors “judgement proof”; even if you can obtain a court judgment and judgment lien against these debtors, they creditor will not be made whole.

Judgment debtor protections are generous under Oklahoma law. You should consider exemptions for primary residences (under certain circumstances), vehicles, and many other items if faced with a judgment lien.

Find an Attorney That Knows Liens

We frequently represent both judgment creditors and judgment debtors to navigate judgment lien issues. Our firm provides personalized guidance and representation to help you advocate for your best interests – no matter whether you are pursuing or defending a judgment lien or any other type of lien claim. 

Avenue Legal Group helps clients navigate all stages of lien issues. Contact Avenue Legal Group to ask questions or begin resolving your lien claim or dispute.

Other helpful information about liens in Oklahoma: 



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