Collecting on a Foreign Judgment in Florida
Our firm is frequently asked to collect and domesticate out of state judgments in Florida. Debtors often move to Florida from other states when faced with a Judgment due to the unlimited homestead exception in Florida. An out of state judgment is considered a “foreign” judgment in Florida. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution requires each state to recognize the judgments of the other states except in very limited circumstances.
Florida has adopted the Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgment Act. The Florida enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (FEFJA) requires the creditor to file an affidavit containing certain information in order to recognize the judgment in Florida. Errors in the filing of these affidavits can result in challenges to the filing. To file the judgment in Florida a lawsuit a case must be filed in the County where the debtor is located. The filing must include a certified copy of the original judgment along with an affidavit. The Affidavit must contain the name, social security number, if known, and the last known post office address of the judgment debtor and of the judgment creditor. The clerk will then send notice to the debtor. Our firm also routinely also sends a notice to the debtor. The debtor has thirty days to challenge the judgment.
REASONS FOR NON-RECOGNITION OF A FOREIGN JUDGMENT IN FLORIDA
The judgment debtor has 30 days to challenge the recording of the Foreign Judgment in Florida. In order to contest the judgment, the debtor must record a lis pendens in the public records and file a new lawsuit contesting the judgment. Just objecting to the judgment being recorded is not enough. A new suit must be filed. In order to successfully challenge the judgment, the judgment debtor will have to show that the law of the state where the judgment was entered was not followed as to jurisdiction. Thus, for example, not following the service statutes in the state where the judgment arose would result in the judgment not being recognized. However, when the foreign state laws allow for the entry of a judgment without service with only mail notice, Florida must recognize this judgment.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Florida courts have also ruled that the Florida 20 year statute of limitation to a foreign judgment filed in Florida. Thus, although the state where the judgment originated might have a shorter statute of limitations, in Florida the 20 year statute applies once the judgment is recorded in Florida.
In short, the domestication of out of state judgments requires clear knowledge of Florida statutes. Failure to follow these statutes precisely can delay your collections efforts.
By: Theodore J. Hamilton, Esq.