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Enforcing an Out-of-State Judgment

If you obtain a judgment in another state or country and wish to enforce it in Florida, you must first domesticate it. “Judgments rendered in other states or countries are referred to as “foreign judgments”. Domestication of a foreign judgment allows the holder of a judgment to legally enforce it against a judgment debtor who may have property, bank accounts or other assets in Florida.

The Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act was adopted by almost all states. Florida renamed it the Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (FEFJA). The only states and territory that did not adopt the Act are Vermont, California and Puerto Rico The FEFJA is laid out in Florida Statute 55.051 which provides that Florida gives Full Faith and Credit to a sister states judgment. Once the FEFJA is followed a judgment creditor can “a foreign judgment without the further cost and harassment often incurred when an entirely new and separate action on the foreign judgment is required for enforcement.” Archbold Health Services, Inc. v. Future Tech Business Systems, Inc., 659 So.2d 1204 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995).

The Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article 4 section 1 of the United States Constitution requires various states recognize legislative acts, public records, and judicial decisions of the other states within the United States. Two procedures exist for establishment in Florida of judgments of other states. One method is to register as provided by Florida statute. The other method is to file a complaint. Florida’s statutory method is easier, but is not as strong as an action during which service of process is made by a process server on the judgment debtor.

Under the FEFJA, a judgment holder must record a certified copy of the foreign judgment in the official records of any county of Florida. This eliminates the need to file an action to enforce the foreign judgment. The foreign judgment has to be recorded before its expiration under the laws of the judgment’s rendering state. There are also other crucial steps that must be followed to domesticate a foreign judgment.

Statute of Limitations

Interestingly, the FEFJA does not contain a statute of limitations, and Florida courts have reached different outcomes when deciding whether a foreign judgment expires. Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal declared that under the FEFJA, a foreign judgment is valid for 20 years under Florida law or until the expiration date under the original forum state’s statute of limitations, whichever comes first.

If you are seeking to enforce a foreign judgment in Florida or are being sued by someone attempting to enforce a foreign judgment, call Coral Gables Business attorney Andrew Pascale today.

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