Domesticating Judgments

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Domesticating a judgment is not a difficult process, especially if your lender has your information and are aware of the requirements of the jurisdiction. Once they have gone through the process of domesticating their judgment into your State, their judgment will have the same effect as any other judgment in that jurisdiction.

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.

How it works

While the actual methodology for issuing a judgment to a judgment debtor differs from state to state, the mechanics are typically similar. Once a money judgment has been perfected by the issuing court, the judgment creditor then tries to get the judgment debtor to voluntarily pay the judgment.

Without cooperation of the judgment debtor, the judgment creditor then determines what property is owned by the judgment debtor and where that property is located. If the property of the judgment debtor is located in the state that issued the judgment, the judgment creditor can then proceed with enforcement.

However, when the property of the judgment debtor is located in another state, the judgment creditor may need a sister-state judgment issued by a court in the state in which the property of the judgment debtor is located. This is known as judgment domestication.

The United States Constitution, under Article IV, section 1 provides that full faith and credit must be given in each state to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state. Thus, a judgment issued by one state court must be given full faith and credit by the foreign or sister-state court.

Although full faith and credit must be provided to judgments of another state, enforcement actions in the sister-state often requires acts to be taken by authorities in the sister-state (such as Marshals or Sheriffs) who will only follow an order of a court of their home state. For example, a judgment is obtained against a judgment debtor who has a bank account in California; to execute a levy upon the California bank account, the judgment creditor registers a Texas judgment as a California sister-state judgment, obtains a Writ of Execution directing a County Marshal in California to enforce the judgment and the judgment creditor then instructs the County Marshal to perform the bank levy at the bank where the judgment debtor has his/her money. The sister-state judgment is necessary since the Texas court does not have the authority to direct the actions of the County Marshal in California.

To obtain entry of a sister-state judgment, the judgment creditor applies to a court in the state in which the judgment debtor’s property is located. Some courts have a particular form which must be used by the judgment creditor and there is typically a requirement that the application for entry of the sister-state judgment be filed in a particular court (i.e. – applications for entry of a sister-state judgment must be made in a Superior Court and not in a Small Claims or Municipal Court). In addition to the application, an authenticated or certified copy of the judgment, issued by the court that originally issued the judgment, must be attached.

After filing the application, the judgment creditor must give the judgment debtor notice of the filing. This enables the judgment debtor to raise certain bars to the issuance of the sister-state judgment, such as defects in the issuance of the judgment or the original judgment is not final and unconditional. If the judgment debtor does nothing, typically the sister-state judgment is issued and then the judgment creditor can pursue all available remedies for enforcement of the judgment in the sister-state.

After the Lender Domesticates the Judgment


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 lawyers approach domesticated judgments


Generally speaking, you cannot dispute the actual debt or judgment. The previous court has already made a decision on the merits of the case.  Nonetheless, we can help you fight a domesticated judgement for a variety of reasons, as provided by the UEFJA:

  1. The foreign court did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant;
  2. The foreign court did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter;
  3. The defendant did not receive notice of the proceedings in sufficient time to enable him to defend;
  4. The judgment was obtained by fraud;
  5. The judgment is repugnant to the public policy of the state where enforcement is sought;
  6. The proceeding in the foreign court was contrary to an agreement between the parties under which the dispute was to be settled;
  7. In the case of jurisdiction based only on personal service, the foreign court was an inconvenient forum for the trial

Responding to a Domesticated Claim


  1. Respond promptly – You must act in a timely manner, generally in a matter of a few days
  2. Hire experienced counsel – There are a variety of procedural arguments that counsel can use to fight a domesticated judgement, and we have lawyers in your state that are prepared to raise appropriate procedural objections

Domesticating Judgments

Domesticating a judgment is not a difficult process, especially if your lender has your information and are aware of the requirements of the jurisdiction. Once they have gone through the process of domesticating their judgment into your State, their judgment will have the same effect as any other judgment in that jurisdiction.

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.

How it works

While the actual methodology for issuing a judgment to a judgment debtor differs from state to state, the mechanics are typically similar. Once a money judgment has been perfected by the issuing court, the judgment creditor then tries to get the judgment debtor to voluntarily pay the judgment.

Without cooperation of the judgment debtor, the judgment creditor then determines what property is owned by the judgment debtor and where that property is located. If the property of the judgment debtor is located in the state that issued the judgment, the judgment creditor can then proceed with enforcement.

However, when the property of the judgment debtor is located in another state, the judgment creditor may need a sister-state judgment issued by a court in the state in which the property of the judgment debtor is located. This is known as judgment domestication.

The United States Constitution, under Article IV, section 1 provides that full faith and credit must be given in each state to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state. Thus, a judgment issued by one state court must be given full faith and credit by the foreign or sister-state court.

Although full faith and credit must be provided to judgments of another state, enforcement actions in the sister-state often requires acts to be taken by authorities in the sister-state (such as Marshals or Sheriffs) who will only follow an order of a court of their home state. For example, a judgment is obtained against a judgment debtor who has a bank account in California; to execute a levy upon the California bank account, the judgment creditor registers a Texas judgment as a California sister-state judgment, obtains a Writ of Execution directing a County Marshal in California to enforce the judgment and the judgment creditor then instructs the County Marshal to perform the bank levy at the bank where the judgment debtor has his/her money. The sister-state judgment is necessary since the Texas court does not have the authority to direct the actions of the County Marshal in California.

To obtain entry of a sister-state judgment, the judgment creditor applies to a court in the state in which the judgment debtor’s property is located. Some courts have a particular form which must be used by the judgment creditor and there is typically a requirement that the application for entry of the sister-state judgment be filed in a particular court (i.e. – applications for entry of a sister-state judgment must be made in a Superior Court and not in a Small Claims or Municipal Court). In addition to the application, an authenticated or certified copy of the judgment, issued by the court that originally issued the judgment, must be attached.

After filing the application, the judgment creditor must give the judgment debtor notice of the filing. This enables the judgment debtor to raise certain bars to the issuance of the sister-state judgment, such as defects in the issuance of the judgment or the original judgment is not final and unconditional. If the judgment debtor does nothing, typically the sister-state judgment is issued and then the judgment creditor can pursue all available remedies for enforcement of the judgment in the sister-state.

After the Lender Domesticates the Judgment


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 lawyers approach domesticated judgments


Generally speaking, you cannot dispute the actual debt or judgment. The previous court has already made a decision on the merits of the case.  Nonetheless, we can help you fight a domesticated judgement for a variety of reasons, as provided by the UEFJA:

  1. The foreign court did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant;
  2. The foreign court did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter;
  3. The defendant did not receive notice of the proceedings in sufficient time to enable him to defend;
  4. The judgment was obtained by fraud;
  5. The judgment is repugnant to the public policy of the state where enforcement is sought;
  6. The proceeding in the foreign court was contrary to an agreement between the parties under which the dispute was to be settled;
  7. In the case of jurisdiction based only on personal service, the foreign court was an inconvenient forum for the trial

Responding to a Domesticated Claim


  1. Respond promptly – You must act in a timely manner, generally in a matter of a few days
  2. Hire experienced counsel – There are a variety of procedural arguments that counsel can use to fight a domesticated judgement, and we have lawyers in your state that are prepared to raise appropriate procedural objections
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