Foreign Judgments

How Can I Enforce a Divorce Judgment If I Was Divorced in a Different State or Country?

If you obtained a final judgment for divorce or paternity in another state or country and you or your former spouse or other parent have moved to Florida and established domicile here, then you may petition the Florida courts to enforce and/or to modify the divorce or paternity decree. Final Judgments of divorce or paternity from different states or countries are both considered under Florida law to be “foreign” judgments. For Florida to recognize and ultimately to enforce the foreign divorce or paternity judgment, you must first petition the court to “domesticate” the Final Judgment.

By domesticating a foreign judgment, Florida courts are giving such judgment full faith and credit under the United States Constitution and as the party seeking enforcement, you can now apply for relief through the Florida courts.

How Can I Domesticate My Foreign Divorce Judgment?

A foreign judgment can be domesticated through any one of the following Florida laws: the Uniform Out-of-Country Foreign Money Judgment Recognition Act, codified in Florida Statutes § 55.601, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, commonly referred to as UIFSA and codified in Chapter 88 of the Florida Statutes, or, the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, commonly referred to as the UCCJEA and codified in Florida Statutes § 61.501 (only for issues involving children).

You must first obtain two certified copies of your divorce or paternity final judgment from the originating state or foreign country to domesticate a foreign judgment. You or your attorney must then prepare a notarized affidavit and a petition to domesticate and to enforce the divorce or paternity final judgment; all which will then be filed with the Florida court. The Petition to Domesticate a Foreign Judgment must set forth the terms of the original final judgment that you want the Florida court to enforce and/or modify. All documents are then filed with the clerk of the county where you or your ex-spouse or the other parent resides. A filing fee is also required and may vary depending upon the county.

For out-of-country foreign judgments, the procedure set forth above is the same, with the addition of a certified translation of the judgment, if the original final judgment is not written in English. However, keep in mind that an out-of-country foreign judgment must meet the principles of equity (fairness) and comity (the informal recognition of one jurisdiction of the laws of another jurisdiction), and be consistent with Florida law and Florida public policy.

So long as the originating court validly entered the foreign judgment, the judgment has not been modified or amended, and is not on appeal or subject to any proceedings pending in another jurisdiction, the Florida court will most likely domesticate the foreign judgment.

You should consult with the experienced attorneys at Hertz Sager for their expert legal advice to determine whether your out-of-state or out-of-country foreign judgment comports with Florida law and our public policy or for any assistance related to the domestication and enforcement of foreign divorce final judgments. We have successfully litigated this area of the law in many aspects of enforcement and modification.

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