Domestication of foreign judgment or exemplified judgment
If you have a judgment that was awarded in another state (foreign judgment), it may be possible to file this judgment in Florida courts. Even though the judgment is entered by another state, Florida still refers to them as a foreign judgment. Once the judgment is deemed filed in Florida, it is a valid Florida judgment, which entitles the creditor to all post-judgment collection options.
Florida Statute 55 provides for the “Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act”. If you have a valid judgment from another state or another country, you first need to obtain from the clerk of court where the judgment was first entered an “Exemplified Judgment”. Once obtained, the creditor must file with the Florida Clerk of Court the exemplified judgment together with an affidavit which attests to the fact that there is a valid non-Florida judgment, and the last known local address of the debtor to prove residency and establish personal jurisdiction. This affidavit, along with an exemplified copy of the foreign judgment is accompanied by a check for the proper recording and filing fees, and is then filed with clerk. The clerk sends notice of this recording to the debtor, to which they have 30 days to file an action objecting to the filing. Technically the only basis for the defendant to object shall be either lack of jurisdiction by the original court or service of process. However, for practical purpose, we have seen Florida courts reject foreign judgments for many variety of reasons.
If the clerk’s notice goes unchallenged the creditor can begin to collect. The average turn around time for a foreign judgment is approximately 60 days, however it can be longer in some counties. For example, Broward County and Palm Beach County require the judgment to first be recorded. The judgment and a notice of recordation is mailed back to the creditor, who must wait 30 days to monitor for objection. After the 30 days has lapsed, the creditor can then send it back in for filing and a Florida case number. Due the clerks’ heavy work load, the turn around time in these two counties is regularly longer.
Once the judgment is finalized it will remain a valid Florida judgment. This judgment once domesticated, will remain in effect for a period of twenty years, or for as long as the judgment is valid in the original forum.
As an alternative to the above described domesticating of judgments, a creditor can also file an independent action on an out of state judgment. The difficulty with this method is actual service by sheriff or process server is required for the Florida action. This independent action must be commenced within 5 years of the judgment being entered. The regular rules of Civil Procedure apply to this type of action and, unlike the above procedure all issues can be litigated. Once the judgment on the independent action is entered, this judgment will be valid for 20 years, regardless of the forum state’s judgment limitation period.