As an international business attorney based out of Miami, Florida, it’s not unusual for me to get a call on how to enforce a foreign judgment in Florida.
Fortunately, for anyone with a foreign judgment looking to enforce it in Florida, Florida has adopted the Uniform Out-of-Country Foreign Money Judgment Act. Most other states have adopted the Act in one form or another. For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on Florida but most other states follow a similar procedure.
The intent of Florida’s Out-of-Country Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act is to provide a fast and certain framework for the recognition of foreign judgments. The Act applies to any out-of-country foreign judgment that is final and conclusive and enforceable—even if an appeal is pending.
The Judgment must be Final, Conclusive and Enforceable.
For a judgment under the Act to be recognized, the first step is to determine whether the foreign judgment “is final and conclusive and enforceable” in the country where the judgment was rendered. Once these criteria are met, the judgment is enforceable as though it were the final judgment of a Florida court unless one of the enumerated grounds for non-recognition applies.
Procedure for Enforcement
The next step is to file your foreign judgment with the clerk of the court and recorded in the public records in the county(ies) where enforcement is sought. Immediately upon the recording of the foreign judgment and the affidavit, the clerk will mail notice of the recording of the foreign judgment to the judgment debtor’s address as given by the judgment creditor in his or her affidavit.
The purpose of the Act’s filing and mailing requirements is twofold: 1) to ensure that the judgment debtor receives notice that you are seeking to enforce a judgment against him in a Florida court and 2) that the debtor is given an opportunity to raise any objections to the enforcement of the judgment.
The judgment debtor then has 30 days after service of the notice to file a notice of objection with the clerk of the court s setting forth grounds for the non-recognition or non-enforceability under the Act.
When Not Enforced
There are three mandatory grounds in which a foreign judgment will not be recognized. A foreign judgment will not be recognized if: (1) the judgment was rendered under a system that does not provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law; (2) the foreign court did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant; or (3) the foreign court did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter.
The Act sets forth additional discretionary grounds in which a court need not recognize a foreign judgments. A court may refuse to recognize a foreign judgment if:
- the defendant in the proceedings in the foreign court did not receive notice of the proceedings in sufficient time to enable him or her to defend.
- the judgment was obtained by fraud.
- the cause of action or claim for relief on which the judgment is based is repugnant to the public policy of this state.
- the judgment conflicts with another final and conclusive order.
- the proceeding in the foreign court was contrary to an agreement between the parties under which the dispute in question was to be settled otherwise than by proceedings in that court.
- in the case of jurisdiction based only on personal service, the foreign court was a seriously inconvenient forum for the trial of the action in the case of jurisdiction based only on personal service.
- the foreign jurisdiction where judgment was rendered would not give recognition to a similar judgment rendered in Florida.
Enforcement and Execution of the Judgment
After the 30 days notice has been given, any party may petition the circuit court to conduct a hearing, determine the issues, and enter an appropriate order granting or denying recognition.
If no objections are filed within 30 days of service of the notice of recording of the foreign judgment, the judgment creditor is entitled to enforcement without a hearing.
Once the court enters an order recognizing the foreign judgment, the order and a copy of the judgment can be recorded in any other county of Florida without further notice or proceedings. The judgment is now fully enforceable in Florida as if the local court had original jurisdiction on the matter.
The judgment operates as a lien against all real property owned by the debtor except the debtor’s homestead, and against all personal property owned by the debtor. The judgment creditor is effectively entitled to a writ of execution against personal property, a writ of garnishment against the debtor’s wages, bank accounts, and other debts due from third parties to the debtor, and all other remedies available to judgment creditors in the State of Florida.
Like the majority of other states that have adopted the Uniform Out-of-Country Money Judgment Recognition Act, Florida provides a statutory framework for the swift and efficient recognition of foreign money judgments. Follow the steps outlined above and you’ll be well on your way to getting your judgment recognized and enforced.