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Domesticating An Out-Of-State Judgment In Florida

What does one need to collect on an out-of-state (foreign) judgment?

Florida's statutory law requires that an exemplified out-of-state judgment first be recorded in the county in which the debtor resides and/or has any property. An exemplified judgment is a copy of a judgment from another state with a certificate attached. The certificate is signed three times, twice by the clerk of the issuing court and once by the presiding judge. The purpose of the certificate and signatures is to validate and authenticate that foreign judgment.

Once the creditor obtains an exemplified copy of the foreign judgment, the judgment is recorded in the requisite county and the clerk of court sends notice to the debtor advising that an out-of-state judgment has been recorded. The creditor may not begin any collections efforts to execute on the judgment until 30 days after the notice to the debtor has been mailed out by the clerk of court. Florida statutory law gives the debtor that 30 day window in which to file an action challenging the validity of the judgment. If no such action is filed within the 30 days, the creditor is free to begin collection efforts including garnishing wages or bank accounts and executing on assets.

Not all of the 67 counties in Florida have the same procedure when it comes to recording an out-of-state judgment. Most only require the fee to record the judgment and send out the notice. However, some counties do require that a case be filed at the same time the judgment is recorded. A case will ultimately be filed, however, in the event the creditor chooses to execute on the judgment. A case number is necessary for the clerk of court to issue writs of execution, attachment and garnishment as well as for the scheduling of any depositions to review a debtor's assets.

A creditor may also file a lawsuit on the foreign judgment and forego the statutory method to domesticate the foreign judgment. In that case, the creditor files an action and asks the court to recognize the foreign judgment in Florida. However, this method usually takes more time than the statutory method. With the statutory method to domesticate a judgment, the creditor may begin collections 30 days after notice is mailed to the debtor.