Most creditors understand that if they obtain a money judgment in a state other than Florida the creditor can transfer the judgment to Florida in order to pursue the debtor’s Florida assets. Creditors are often uniformed about how long they have to collect the foreign judgment in Florida. The question is: what is the statute of limitations of a foreign judgment enforced in Florida.
The creditor with a foreign state judgment has two options to transfer and enforce judgment in Florida. The creditor can bring an action based on a foreign judgment within five years of the entry of the foreign judgment. This option does not “domesticate” the existing foreign judgment, but rather the creditor files a new Florida lawsuit to replicate the foreign state judgment. The procedure results in a new Florida judgment that is good for 20 years.
The more common option is to domesticate the existing foreign judgment under Florida’s version of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (UEFJA). The creditor records the foreign judgement in Florida and provides notice to the debtor. The debtor has 30 days to raise limited jurisdictional defenses. After 30 days, the foreign judgment becomes a Florida judgment. The creditor does not have to institute a new lawsuit in Florida so the domestication option faster, cheaper, and easier.
The five year statute of limitations to bring a lawsuit based on a foreign judgment does not apply to domestication under the UEFJA. A foreign judgment may be domesticated in Florida any time during the foreign state’s statute of limitations for its judgments; this means that as long as the judgment is enforceable in the issuing state the creditor may domesticate the foreign judgment in Florida. A domesticated foreign judgment has a 20 year statute of limitations in Florida, but the time runs from the date the judgment was first issued in the foreign state; the clock does not start at the domestication date.
These foreign judgment enforcement procedures were discussed in a 2017 Florida Supreme Court case.