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Can a debtor avoid paying you back by crossing state lines?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2022 | Domestication of Foreign Judgments |

Some people borrow money that they never intend to repay. When their creditors come calling, they may do anything they can think of to avoid financial obligations. Some people will change their phone numbers and refuse their mail. Others will move and not arrange for mail forwarding.

Tracking down someone who owes you money is a necessary step if you want to take them to court and get a judgment against them. A judgment will allow you to garnish their wages. However, someone who has already tried to avoid collection activity could leave the state after you sue them.

Can a debtor from Texas or another state avoid their responsibilities to you by moving to Florida?

Florida allows you to domesticate existing judgments

The Florida civil courts frequently see lawsuits related to debts and issue judgments when appropriate. The state also recognizes judgments issued by the courts in other states if a plaintiff takes the right steps.

Florida has signed on to the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, a nearly nationwide law that allows one state government to quickly recognize creditor judgments issued in another state. A creditor requesting a hearing in court can lead to the domestication of their judgment, which means the Florida courts treat it like a ruling from the Florida state courts. A domestication allows you to enforce the judgment without taking the debtor to court again.

Domestication of a judgment is simpler than suing again

You could continue to serve the debtor legal paperwork and pursue a judgment against them in state court regardless of where they move. However, the issue with this approach is obvious.

It could take months to track them down and serve them every time they move, and then you have to wait for your day in court. You will have to pay for all of that extra effort. Although domestication will still require legal support, it is more straightforward and therefore faster than seeking a brand-new judgment.

Domesticating an existing out-of-state judgment could mean that you can enforce it and garnish someone’s paycheck before they have a chance to quit their job and avoid the responsibility again. Learning more about how the law protects you as a creditor with a debtor who has moved to Florida could make collecting that debt a little easier.