If a judgment is entered by a court and the appeal period expires the public can rely and act upon that judgment even though the judgment is thereafter vacated. Eastern Savings Bank v. City of Salem, 33 Mass.App.Ct. 140, 597 N.E.2d 55 (1992). In Eastern Savings Bank the court ordered that title was revested in a party. That party then gave a mortgage upon the title. Upon motion of the opposing party the judgment was later vacated, once again vesting title in the first party. The court said that although the title was thereby vested in the first party it was, nonetheless, subject to the mortgage. The court distinguished Bowers v. Board of Appeals of Marshfield, 16 Mass.App.Ct. 29, 448 N.E.2d 1293 (1983), where there was merely an agreement for judgment.
Judgments can by their own operation vest title in a party. See G.L.c. 183, sec. 43, 44, for example. Those statutes provide:
G.L.c. 183, §43. Whenever a final decree in equity shall be made by the supreme judicial, superior, probate or land court directing that a deed, conveyance or release of any real estate or interest therein shall be made, and the party directed to make such deed, conveyance or release does not duly execute it within the time specified in the decree, the decree itself shall operate to vest title to the real estate or interest in the party entitled thereto by the decree as fully and completely as if such deed, conveyance or release had duly been executed by the party directed to make it.
G.L.c. 183, §44. The recording or registration of a duly certified copy of such decree, attested by the clerk, assistant clerk, register or assistant register, recorder or deputy recorder, as the case may be, of the court where made, in the registry of deeds of the district where said real estate is situated, shall have the same force and effect as if a duly executed deed, conveyance or release had so been recorded or registered.
Also G.L.c. 208, sec. 34A provides that:
Whenever a judgment for alimony shall be made . . . directing that a deed . . . of any real estate . . . [be given] . . . the judgment itself [after being recorded] shall operate to vest title to the real estate . . . in the party entitled thereto . . . as fully and completely as if such deed . . . had been duly executed by the party directed to make it.
Under these statutes the conveyance is not complete until the decree is actually recorded. In True v. Wisniowski, 13 Mass.App.Ct. 501, the probate court ordered the husband to convey to the wife. A creditor attached the property in the name of the husband before the decree was recorded. The court noted that the attaching creditor “did not have actual knowledge of the terms of the plaintiff’s divorce decree at the time of the attachment,” and held that the equitable rights created under the statute (G.L.c. 208, §34A) are expressly made subject to the provisions for recording of notice.
There are other statutes and rules of court that addess this same issue.