By: Lance T. Denha, Esq.
Receiving a court decision in your favor is often just the first judicial step in obtaining compensation. Unless your judgment debtor willingly pays you, you will need to resort to other judicial measures to receive payment of damages. To avoid the situation of a debtor moving to another state to avoid judgment debts, almost all states have adopted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (UEFJA), which provides a uniform process for registering foreign judgments in state courts throughout the United States.
Once a money judgment has been issued and ordered by the court, the judgment creditor then tries to get the judgment debtor to voluntarily pay the judgment. Failing to obtain the 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 of the judgment issued by the court. 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.
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.
For example in Michigan, turning a foreign judgment into a Michigan judgment is as simple as filing the following with the clerk of the court of Michigan.
- A certified copy of the judgment from out of state;
- An affidavit that the judgment is from judgment creditor’s out of state court and has not been satisfied (attorneys typically prepare this document);
- A filing fee payable to the clerk court in Michigan.
Once these items are filed with the clerk’s office, the court sends a copy of the judgment and an affidavit to the debtor. The debtor has 21 days to object to the domestication of the judgment. This rarely, if ever, happens. Once the judgment is considered domesticated, it is collectible as any other judgment in Michigan. It is at that time judgment creditors can go to immediately attempt to collect on the judgment. The collection methods can include garnishment against the debtor’s employer or bank account and/or seizure against the debtor’s assets.
Should you or anyone you know have judgments, would like to pursue judgments against a particular debtor, or have the need to further inquire as to whether a judgment is worth seeking and pursuing, please do not hesitate to contact our office in order to properly guide a creditor with his/her options.