You knew you had a credible case when you filed it at the county courthouse. Your client owed you money on a contract, but failed to pay you after a few weeks. Disgruntled, you attempted several debt collection methods and finally threw in the towel, filing a lawsuit the very next day in your home state of Washington. You had your "day in court" and won a judgment against the debtor. But now you have a dilemma -- the client-debtor lives in Texas and won't voluntarily pay the judgment. How are you going to enforce a Washington court judgment in Texas? That's where the federal government has acted on your behalf by creating the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (UEFJA), a law adopted by most states which permits the enforcement of a valid judgment from another state by merely filing the judgment order with the clerk's office.
Below you will learn more about the UEFJA including how it works, when you may need to use it, and where to go for legal assistance should you need a lawyer.
How Does the UEFJA Work?
It is really quite simple. Let's imagine the above scenario where you have a judgment from a Washington court, but know the debtor has assets in Texas. Are you going to have to go through the very lengthy and expensive process of filing your lawsuit again in Texas, hoping for the same result? Goods news – no, you don't. Instead, you will have to go through a process known as "domestication" as described below.
All you have to do under the UEFJA is domesticate or file your judgment in the county in which the court would have jurisdiction over the debtor. The debtor will have a chance to respond to your judgment, however. If the debtor ignores the notice, you are in luck. The judgment will be entered and will be the same as any other judgment. Then you can enforce the judgment through a garnishment, levy, or other attachment of the debtor's assets. Keep in mind, even if the debtor does respond, they can't re-litigate the entire case; only bring up procedural issues such a timely filing of a judgment (there is a time limit), or argue that the state in which they live does not follow the UEFJA and is therefore not enforceable.
Domestication of the Judgment
Domestication might sound complicated, but in those states that have adopted the UEFJA, the process goes quickly. The plaintiff can domesticate their out-of-state judgment by bringing it to the courthouse where the debtor resides -- meaning the debtor must be tracked down, and the domestication papers filed in the debtors local court.
States That Don't Follow UEFJA
Most states, 47 plus the District of Columbia, follow the UEFJA for debt collection purposes. But where does that authority originate? The United States Constitution, under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, requires states to give full faith and credit to the official acts and judgments of every other state.
Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act: Related Resources
Learn More About Enforcing Your Judgment
You have a judgment against a person who has financially harmed you, now you want to collect on it. But when the debtor lives or has assets out of state, you will have to take a few extra steps to make sure you are paid on your legally enforceable court order. You can learn more about domesticating a judgment by speaking with a local collections attorney to discuss your options today.