Domesticating a Foreign Family Law Judgment In Florida

If you obtained a divorce judgment or other family law order in another state or country, you may want to domesticate it here in Florida. Both an out-of-state and out-of-country family law judgment are considered “foreign” and have to be domesticated in Florida before they can be enforced or modified. Cases involving court judgments from outside the state are complicated, but having a knowledgeable family law attorney will help. You can count on the experience of Orlando Family Team.

Why Domesticate a Judgment from Outside Florida?

Whether it’s a judgment that was issued in another state or another country, Florida views it as “foreign.” Most divorces are more than just the legal dissolution of a marriage. Divorce decrees typically include provisions concerning property and debt division between the spouses, spousal support (alimony), child support, child custody, and more.

If you move from another state or country to Florida, the first thing you need to do if you want your family law judgment enforced in our state is to have it domesticated. Countless people move to Florida every year, often because of a changed family situation, to take a new job, or to start a new life. And while the judgment from your previous state or country is still valid there, courts in Florida can’t enforce it until it’s been domesticated.

For one thing, Florida courts want to make sure the judgment is valid. That’s why courts here insist on obtaining a certified copy of these judgments before they are domesticated. They also want to make sure there are no superseding orders which have replaced or invalidated an old one. Without some form of domestication, an ex-spouse could falsely claim that an outdated order is still in effect and attempt to enforce it against the other party. Florida’s domestication laws help avoid that.

Finally, domestication must be done before you can modify a prior judgment. All sorts of life changes could necessitate modification of an old order. But a court won’t consider modifying a judgment from another state or country until it’s domesticated in Florida first.

How Do I Domesticate a Foreign Judgment?

There are generally three ways to go about domesticating your family law judgment, depending on what type of court order it is. The detailed rules are contained in three separate statutes:

  • The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (for child custody orders)
  • The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (for spousal support and child support orders)
  • The Uniform Out-of-Country Foreign Money Judgment Recognition Act (for judgments from outside the country)

Regardless of which type of judgment you want to domesticate, you have to obtain a certified copy of the final judgment. Next, you and your lawyer will need to prepare a notarized affidavit and a Petition to Domesticate a Foreign Judgment. The petition will indicate the items you want to be enforced or modified. These documents will all be filed with the appropriate court clerk in Florida, with the necessary filing fee. Finally, everything is served on the opposing party.

Special Rules for Out-Of-Country Judgments

If the judgment is from another country, the above procedure applies. Also, you will need a certified translation of the judgment, if necessary. These judgments must also meet the principles of equity and comity, which essentially means they have to be fair and consistent with Florida law and public policy for our courts to recognize them.

What Happens After Filing the Domestication Paperwork for a Foreign Family Law Judgment?

Provided the above steps were followed, the judge will consider the petition to domesticate the foreign judgment. It will be approved as long as it:

  • Has not been modified or otherwise amended
  • Is not subject to any pending appeals or proceedings in the original court where it was issued
  • Was validly entered by the original court

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help Domesticate a Foreign Judgment?

A Florida family law attorney can take care of the necessary paperwork to domesticate your foreign judgment. That includes everything from obtaining the certified copy of the order to completing and filing the affidavit and petition. If you are domesticating the judgment for purposes of later modifying it, an attorney can also help with this critical step.

The court will approve the domestication petition as long as the correct steps are followed. However, there are cases in which we represent the party that is not trying to domesticate a foreign judgment. In that event, we will make sure that the party asking for domestication follows the proper procedure. If the other party attempts to domesticate an invalid order, for example, we will take steps to oppose domestication.

Orlando Family Team Is Ready To Get To Work

Whether you are the party domesticating the judgment or the one who isn’t, Orlando Family Team is here to protect your rights and look out for you. Domestication is a complex matter, but we’re ready to put our experience to the test. Give us a call today to learn more.