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When Can Foreign Judgments Be Enforced in the US?

Are you having trouble with another party not complying with a foreign judgment? Boyer Law Firm can help. Enforcement of foreign orders requires knowledge of federal and state case rulings, federal and state acts, and state law. Foreign judgment lawyers are familiar with navigating court systems with no federal laws governing this unique legal area. There are no treaties or agreements regarding judgments.

Common law and the state you live in establish the requirements for enforcing court orders from other countries. If you have a judgment from a different state or country than where you live, learn more about laws governing enforcement in this guide.

Adoption of Model Recognition Acts

Most states and the District of Columbia have adopted versions of the Uniform Foreign-Country Money-Judgments Recognition Act of 1962 and the Uniform Foreign Country Money Judgments Recognition Act of 2005.

As of March 2022, the District of Columbia and 28 states have adopted the Act of 2005. Another nine states utilize the 1962 Act. The remaining 13 states use state common law and the Supreme Court’s opinion in Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113 1895) for making determinations.

States using common law for determining enforcement of foreign judgments use the Third Restatement of Foreign Relations Law of the United States and Hilton when making their decision.

The Supreme Court’s findings in Hilton were that enforcement and recognition of foreign judgments deal with the principles of international comity. Once a person receives a fair and full trial in a foreign country, there is no reason to take further action in the U.S.

The Hilton ruling came under common law and didn’t receive binding consideration. Binding consideration is from Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins (1938). The Erie opinion establishes states as governing recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.

Foreign judgment attorneys are familiar with the Acts and precedent-setting court rulings. They know how to get recognition and enforcement for judgments under the law.

Requirements for Recognition of a Foreign Judgment

The two recognition acts apply to judgments denying or granting recovery of money. The uniform acts do not apply to specific monetary decisions, including:

  • Tax judgments
  • Judgments for fines and penalties
  • Family law judgments

The requirements for recognition include the order to be conclusive, final, and enforceable within the issuing country. The U.S. may stay a suit requesting recognition if an appeal is pending in the issuing country.

A foreign judgment qualifies for recognition and enforcement in the U.S. unless it meets the grounds for nonrecognition.

Grounds for Nonrecognition of a Foreign Judgment

The Uniform Acts establish grounds for nonrecognition. The grounds may be mandatory or discretionary.

When courts determine a discretionary ground for denial, they usually deny recognition. The exception is if the foreign legal process should have established the same grounds.

U.S. courts cannot recognize foreign judgments if the legal system issuing the ruling doesn’t provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the due process of law. This requires looking a the entirety of the foreign country’s judicial system.

A U.S. court cannot recognize the judgment if a foreign court lacks personal or subject matter jurisdiction. When making this determination, the courts use U.S. constitutional standards. Section five of each Uniform Act includes a list for determining personal jurisdiction.

Most U.S. courts don’t question foreign law regarding subject matter jurisdiction. Denial may occur if the U.S. courts have exclusive subject-matter jurisdiction under U.S. law. Other reasons for denying recognition include the following:

  • Lack of notice to the defendant in time to provide a defense
  • Judgment by fraud due to denying the opportunity to present their case
  • Foreign judgment repugnant to state or federal public policy
  • Conflict with another final judgment
  • Conflict with a dispute resolution clause between the parties
  • The foreign court is a seriously inconvenient forum
  • Substantial doubt about the rendering court’s integrity
  • Lack of due process by procedures fundamentally unfair

Reciprocity to U.S. judgments is not grounds for denial under the Uniform Acts. The states of Arizona, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Texas use reciprocity to deny recognition of judgments.

This does not mean that country denied recognition of a U.S. judgment. It deals with how that country usually treats U.S. judgments.

If you have questions, speak with a foreign judgment lawyer to determine the likelihood of recognition on your case.


This Act, adopted by Congress in 2010, governs the enforcement and recognition of foreign defamation judgments. The Act specifies state and federal courts may not enforce or recognize foreign defamation judgments.

The only exception to this ruling is if the person opposing recognition would be liable under the constitutional standards of defamation lawsuits in the U.S.

The SPEECH Act is the only exception to states controlling enforcement and recognition of foreign judgments.

Florida Foreign Judgment Law

In Florida, foreign judgments include those from other states and foreign countries. The rules for recognition and enforcement are outlined in §55.604 of the Florida statutes.

The Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgment Act allows anyone needing to enforce the collection of a foreign judgment to have a Writ of Execution issue. This is a judicial order for the enforcement of a judgment. The filing of the writ must be in the same county where the judgment is recorded.

If you want to obtain judicial relief or enforce the judgment, you must file in Civil Court. For enforcement, you must provide the following:

  • A certified copy of the foreign judgment
  • Affidavit from the judgment holder with the last known address of the debtor, judgment creditor, and creditors attorney
  • Notice to the judgment debtor
  • Filing fees
  • Self-addressed, stamped envelope for the court to return a recorded judgment

A Writ of Execution can only issue 35 days after mailing the notice of the court’s recognition of judgment. The writ issues if the judgment debtor does not file anything contesting the judgment.

The creditor recording the judgment must track the 35-day objection period. It is their responsibility to return to court and request the issuance of the writ.

Use a foreign judgment attorney to ensure the correct completion of all steps in a timely fashion. They will be familiar with the legal process and proper document preparation, preventing your matter from being thrown out due to non-compliance with legal requirements.

Statute of Limitations

Two cases provide findings after controversy over a statute of limitations under the Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgment Act.

Le Credit Lyonnais, S.A. v. Nadd, 741 So. 2d 116, 1168-1172 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999) deals with the issue of whether a Five-year or 20-year statute of limitation applies to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.

The appellate court’s finding is that the five-year statute does not apply to registering, filing, and recording foreign judgments. The court’s analysis supports a 20-year statute consistent with the U.S. Constitutions Full Faith and Credit Clause, Art. IV §1 of the U.S. Constitution and 28 U.S.C. §1738.

In the Florida Supreme Court case Watkins v. Conway, 385 U.S. 188 (1966), the court finds that application of F.S. §55.081 with a 20-year statute of limitations is necessary for recording a foreign judgment under the Act to be compliance with the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Begin the Recognition Process

If you have a foreign judgment needing recognition and enforcement, contact Boyer Law Firm, P.L. We have extensive experience domesticating foreign judgments, filing lawsuits to collect amounts owing, and more.

Email [email protected] or use our contact form to schedule a case evaluation with one of our international law attorneys. The earlier we begin the process, the faster you will receive the money due you under a foreign judgment.

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