Sometimes a Florida business needs to bring a lawsuit in another state against a supplier, customer, or other entity. If your business wins the lawsuit, you obtain a judgment. That judgment entitles you to collect a specified sum of money from the person or entity you sued. That person or entity becomes known as the “judgment debtor.”
Judgments become a lien upon certain kinds of property (primarily real estate) in the state where the judgment is obtained. Judgments also entitle you to pursue various collection efforts, such as seizing property or garnishing bank accounts that the judgment debtor keeps in that state where the judgment was granted.
But what do you do if you obtain a judgment in another state against a judgment debtor that has assets in Florida? Out-of-state businesses that sue Floridians or Florida corporations in their home states have the same problem when they want to collect judgments from assets that are located in Florida. Fortunately, Florida law provides a solution to that problem.
Enforcement of Out-Of-State Judgments
To collect a judgment obtained in another state against a person or corporation with Florida assets, you must “domesticate” the judgment. That means you bring the judgment home to Florida.
You domesticate a judgment from another state by following the requirements of the Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (FEFJA). As it is used in the FEFJA, “foreign” refers to any state other than Florida.
You start by getting a certified copy of the judgment from the court that awarded the judgment to you. You then record the certified copy in the office of the clerk of the circuit court of any Florida county. You will generally want to record it in the county in which the assets you are trying to seize (or to take a lien against) are located. The clerk will charge a fee to record the judgment.
You also need to file an affidavit with the clerk of court that states the name, social security number (if known) and last known address of the judgment debtor. Your affidavit should provide the same information about yourself.
The clerk will notify the judgment debtor by mail that the judgment has been recorded. The judgment debtor has 30 days after notice is provided to challenge the validity of the judgment. That rarely happens.
Once the judgment is recorded, it has the same effect as a judgment that is issued by a Florida court. Thirty days after the judgment is recorded, it becomes a lien against the judgment debtor’s Florida real estate. The recorded judgment also allows you to follow Florida debt collection procedures, including garnishing or levying the judgment debtor’s Florida assets.
Both out-of-state creditors seeking to collect a judgment against a Florida debtor, and Florida businesses seeking to collect an out-of-state judgment from the judgment debtor’s Florida assets, will benefit from the assistance of a Florida attorney. A lawyer who is familiar with the FEFJA and with procedures followed by local courts can streamline collection efforts while helping creditors avoid mistakes that they might make if they try to domesticate a judgment without legal assistance.
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