When your only recourse to collect a debt that an individual or business owes you and the court rules in your favor, their payment of that judgment shouldn’t be limited by where you filed your lawsuit. If that were the case, people could just move assets around to avoid payment.
That’s where the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (UEFJA) comes in. Nearly every state (including Florida) recognizes this federal law. The UEFJA is based on the “full faith and credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution.
It basically provides that legal actions and judgments made in one state are recognized in others. The UEFJA simplifies the process of collecting on a valid judgment when assets are located in a state other than where the lawsuit was brought.
The process of domestication
As a creditor who’s won a judgment, you don’t need to file a separate lawsuit in each state where your debtor has assets. You only need to file a judgment order with a circuit court clerk within the state to “domesticate” the judgment.
While the law and the process refer to foreign judgments, “foreign” can just mean another state. It can, however, be used to collect judgments from another country. That process can be more complex and dependent on the other country’s laws. That’s not what we’re discussing here.
Collecting on your domesticated judgment
Once the judgment is domesticated, you as the creditor are allowed to take the necessary steps to collect the money owed you. This can be done through levies, liens, garnishments and attachments if your debtor still refuses to pay.
Your debtor can’t use this action to re-litigate the judgment unless they can claim there’s some type of procedural issue or you’ve passed the time limit for collecting on the judgment (which is 20 years in Florida).
While it’s certainly advantageous to be able to domesticate a judgment, that doesn’t mean collecting what’s owed you will be simple if you have a debtor determined to avoid payment. That’s why it’s wise to take advantage of local resources that can help you collect what’s rightfully yours.