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Enforcing Foreign Judgments in Family Law Matters

If you have attained a divorce decree internationally, it may seem like the case is over. You filed all your paperwork, a judge heard your case at a hearing, and the court entered a judgment; however, what happens if you and your spouse have dual or different citizenship?  Can you enforce a foreign judgment in the United States?  Can you obtain child support or alimony from a spouse living in the United States?

In international divorce cases, once the judgement is issued, the battle for its recognition and enforcement begins.

Enforcing Foreign Judgments in Family Law MattersIn the European Union under the EU Regulation no4/2009, all judgments issued by a court within the European Union will automatically be recognized in all other member states of the EU.  However, the United States has not signed any multinational agreement or treaty ensuring reciprocal recognition and enforcement of a judgment.  This means that United States may or may not recognizing foreign judgments.  Recognition and enforcement of a judgment is therefore a product of domestic law.

International alimony or child support procedures

In Florida, foreign judgments are subject to potential non-recognition under section 55.604-05 of the Florida Statutes.  As a basic summary, out of country foreign judgments may be recognized in Florida so long as they do not violate the grounds for non-recognition under section 55.605.  Some of the grounds for non-recognition include when the foreign court does not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant, if the plaintiff obtained the judgment by fraud, and if the court would not recognize the plaintiff’s  claim for relief under U.S. or state law.

To enforce a foreign judgment in Florida, you must first record the judgment.  First, you must file the judgment with the clerk of court and record it in the public records.  Second, you must provide your local clerk with an Affidavit giving the debtor’s name, social security number, and address.

The recording however, does not mean automatic enforcement of the judgment.  The clerk notifies the debtor, who then has 30 days to file an action contesting the jurisdiction of the presiding court.  The court then will conduct a hearing and issue an order recognizing or ignoring the foreign judgment.  If the court does not recognize the judgment, it will not be enforceable.


If you have questions regarding the enforcement of foreign judgments or filing procedures, please contact us.  We have experienced attorneys who look forward to assisting you.

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