What is a Foreign Judgement?
A foreign judgment is defined as a legal judgment made in a jurisdiction outside of your own. A judgment made in a state outside of Florida is considered a foreign judgment, as is a judgment made in a country other than the United States. Under the Florida Domestication of Foreign Judgements Act, a Florida court has the ability to enforce or “domesticate” a judgment made in a state other than Florida. Florida’s Uniform Out-of-country Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act ensures that Floridian courts can enforce judgments made in foreign countries.
Determining if a Foreign Judgment Can Be Enforced
In order to be enforced, a foreign judgment must meet certain standards set forth by Florida Statutes. These typically have to do with the validity of the court system and proceedings that led to the foreign judgment. A foreign judgment will not be recognized by Florida courts if:
- It is rendered under a system that is not impartial or is incompatible with the due process of the law.
- The foreign court did not have jurisdiction over either the defendant or the subject matter.
- The defendant did not receive notice of the proceedings with adequate time to defend him/herself.
- The judgment was obtained by fraud.
- The judgment conflicts with another final or conclusive order.
The full list of grounds for nonrecognition of a foreign judgment can be found in Section 55.605 of the Florida Statutes. If you are not sure whether you qualify for a foreign judgment, you may want to consult a lawyer who is familiar with these cases.
Claiming a Foreign Judgment
In order to domesticate a foreign judgment, the plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel must submit certain documents to an office of the clerk of the circuit court in Florida. While this can be done in any Florida county, it is strongly advisable that you file in the county in which the assets you would like to seize or take a lien against are located.
The documents needed to claim a foreign judgment are a certified copy of the judgment from the court that awarded the judgment to you, and an affidavit with the name, social security number (if possible), and last known address of both you (the judgment collector) and the judgment debtor.
The clerk will record the judgment and affidavit and send a notice to the judgment debtor. The debtor then has 30 days after the notice is provided in which he or she can challenge the validity of the judgment. This will only happen in very rare instances. If the judgment debtor takes no action, the judgment will be considered final and will have the same effect as a judgment made in Florida. At this time, you will be permitted to follow Florida’s judgment collection procedures and the courts can place liens on real property located in the county of recording.