Domesticate of Judgments
You went to court and got a judgment against your debtor. That should be it, right? If the debtor does not voluntarily pay the judgment, you will still have to execute on the judgment through a garnishment, levy or other attachment of the debtor's assets. What if your debtor is in another
State or has assets in another state? You may need to domesticate your judgment into the state where the debtor resides or has assets.
Domesticating a judgment is not a difficult process, especially if you have enough information on your debtor and are aware of the requirements of the jurisdiction. Once you have gone through the process of domesticating your judgment into the correct State, your judgment will have the same effect as any other judgment in that jurisdiction.
How to Domesticate Judgments
Some states require creditors to essentially "start over" and file a whole new lawsuit in the new state in which they wish to domesticate their judgment. However, most states have adopted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (UEFJA). The UEFJA allows the creditor to obtain an effective judgment in a different state by just filing proof of their judgment, providing the last known address of the debtor and creditor, and paying the correct filing fees. This is quicker and more cost effective than filing a separate action. Most states, including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted the UEFJA. Only California, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Vermont have not. Each jurisdiction may have different requirements as to the actual papers that are filed, but below are examples of what those papers may look like for Virginia and Maryland.
After the correct papers have been filed with the clerk of the court, the clerk will send notice to the debtor. The debtor will have a certain number of days (specified by the jurisdiction) to respond. If the debtor does not timely respond, the judgment will be entered and will be the same as any other judgment. If the debtor does respond in a timely manner, he may request a hearing to dispute the enforcement of the judgment or the timeliness of the enforcement. However, the debtor is normally restricted to "procedural" defenses. For example the debtor can show that the original court lacked jurisdiction or that the debtor was not properly served. Otherwise, the debtor cannot dispute the actual debt or judgment. The previous court has already made a decision on the merits of the case.
How to Quicken the Process
In order to have your judgment domesticated as soon as possible, you need to contact your attorney or the court to determine the exact filing requirements in the new state. Some jurisdictions require the judgment to be certified and exemplified by a judge in the original court, or to have a triple seal judgment. Our firm has a network of attorneys that can assist you in domesticating your judgment in a jurisdiction in which we do not practice.
Also, having the debtor's correct address will allow your attorney to prepare the necessary documents more efficiently. And as with any judgment, any information you can get regarding the debtor's assets will make the enforcement of your judgment more fruitful. For example, copies of checks you received showing where the debtor holds a bank account is especially helpful to quicken the process.
Please call with any questions. More information regarding enforcement of judgments is in the Construction Law Survival Manual at www.FullertonLaw.com