The Constitution requires all states to give "Full Faith and Credit" to other states rulings and laws. This requires courts to recognize out-of-state judgments. This means that a legitimate judgment from another state is enforceable as long as the proper procedures are followed.

Before any judgment can be enforced, a court must recognize it as valid. Moreover, the person against whom the judgment is made may be able to challenge it on due process or jurisdictional grounds if the court did not have the authority to grant such a judgment.

Once an application for enforcement of the judgment is filed with the intended state, a sheriff or local authority will enforce the action on the debtor to maintain jurisdictional boundaries.

How Can I Enforce an out of State Judgment?

The method of enforcing out-of-state judgments depends on what state the person is attempting to collect it and what state the judgment is from. For instance, the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act allows for enforcement of judgments once they have been filed with the local District Court or Superior Court, in accordance with normal collection procedures.

This Act has been adopted by 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The states that have not adopted the Act are:

  • California
  • Indiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont

To enforce a judgment in or from one of these states, the holder must first file what is referred to as a “domestication action” to make the foreign judgment locally enforceable.  However, because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause this is usually just a formality.

In order to obtain a judgment from another state, a judgment creditor must:

  • Apply to the state where the debtor has property or money that can be obtained by judgment.
  • Check with local court in the state to make sure that the application is correctly filled out.
  • File a certified and authentic copy of the original judgment to the court for the court records.

After the application is filed with the court, the judgment creditor must give notice to the judgment debtor of the filing. The debtor then will have a specific time period in which they have to respond.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It can sometimes be difficult to collect on court judgments, and particularly troublesome to enforce judgments from other states. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you comply with the procedural rules regarding out-of-state judgments, and advise you on the collecting the judgment.