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How to Enforce and Defend an Out of State Judgment in the State of Florida

Chapter 55 of the Florida Statutes lays out the process for enforcing out of state or foreign judgments in Florida. The process is statutorily created and requires that each of the steps laid out in the statute be followed exactly in order for the judgment to be enforced. Additionally, the law builds in some protections for Florida citizens against the enforcement of foreign judgments. Whether you are a judgment creditor or debtor yourself, you represent a judgment creditor or debtor, or you are a debt collection agency, it is important that you hire an attorney in Florida that knows this process well.

For the Creditor:

Out of state creditors need to make certain that they follow each step precisely to ensure they can collect an out of state or foreign judgment. Here are the steps required by the Statute to enforce out of state or foreign judgments:

  1. Have a Florida attorney record a certified copy of the foreign judgment in the public records of the debtor’s county of residence.
  2. The Florida attorney should also prepare and record a judgment creditor’s affidavit setting forth the name, social security number, if known, and last known post office address of the judgment debtor and of the judgment creditor. The affidavit will be signed and notarized by the judgment creditor.[1]
  3. The clerk of the circuit court of the county where the judgment is recorded will mail a notice of recording to the debtor and record a proof of mailing with the court. [2]
  4. The judgment will be enforceable and therefore, collectible within 30 days, unless the debtor files a separate action contesting the jurisdiction of the court. This will be discussed in more detail below.[3]
  5. Once the foreign judgment becomes enforceable, the attorney can then begin taking legal action to collect the debt, including obtaining a Writ of Garnishment or Continuing Writ of Garnishment against wages.[4]

For the Debtor:

On the other hand, because foreign judgment enforcement is statutorily constructed, if any of the above requirements are not timely and properly fulfilled, then a judgment debtor has recourse to defend against enforcement and collection on the grounds that the statute’s requirements have not been met. Additionally, a judgment debtor can challenge the foreign judgment on the grounds that an appeal is pending in another jurisdiction, or that the court that entered the judgment lacked jurisdiction over the debtor.

In order to challenge enforcement of an out of state or foreign judgment on one of the grounds listed above the following steps must be taken:

  1. Within 30 days of the date that the foreign judgment is recorded, file an action contesting either the jurisdiction of the court which entered the foreign judgment or the validity of the foreign judgment AND record a lis pendens. The court will stay the enforcement of the judgment upon the filing of the action.[5]
  2. If the debtor can prove a valid reason for the court to stay the enforcement of the judgment (e.g. previous court’s lack of jurisdiction; appeal pending; etc.) then the court will stay enforcement for an appropriate period upon requiring security for the judgment.[6]

If based on a pending appeal, such an action gives the judgment debtor a chance to stop collection while the appeal is decided in a foreign court. If the action is based on a challenge of the prior court’s jurisdiction, and the Florida court determines that the prior court lacked personal jurisdiction and that the debtor did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of jurisdiction, then the creditor is not entitled to enforce the foreign judgment under Florida law.[7]

The law provides a clear process for enforcement of out of state judgments in Florida. It also provides protections for Floridians against enforcement of judgments that lack jurisdiction or are subject to an appeal in a foreign state’s court.

The Boatman Law Firm is experienced in both defending against and collecting on foreign judgments. Contact us today if you need assistance at 239-330-1494.

THIS BLOG IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. THE READER SHOULD CONSULT WITH KNOWLEDGEABLE LEGAL COUNSEL TO DETERMINE HOW APPLICABLE LAWS APPLY TO SPECIFIC FACTS AND SITUATIONS. BLOG POSTS ARE BASED ON THE MOST CURRENT INFORMATION AT THE TIME THEY ARE WRITTEN. SINCE IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE LAWS OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES MAY HAVE CHANGED SINCE PUBLICATION, PLEASE CALL US TO DISCUSS ANY ACTION YOU MAY BE CONSIDERING AS A RESULT OF READING THIS BLOG.

[1] § 55.505, Fla. Stat.

[2] Id.

[3] § 55.503, Fla. Stat.

[4] See Chapter 77, Fla. Stat.

[5] § 55.509, Fla. Stat.

[6] Id.

[7] Spano v. Wells Fargo, 165 So. 3d 834 (Fla. 4th DCA  2015).

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