How to Domesticate a Divorce in Florida
By Art Smithers
Once you have obtained a final judgment of divorce, you may decide to move to another state. Enforcing a final judgment is difficult enough when you are living in the state where it was issued; the difficulties attendant with enforcement are significantly greater once you move to another jurisdiction. Fortunately, most states, including Florida, allow you to use local courts to enforce a decree from another state. The process is known as domesticating your judgment and requires you to follow a few basic steps.
Contact the clerk of court in the county and state where the judgment was rendered and obtain a certified copy. Most clerks require a written request with payment of necessary fees, which are likely to vary from state to state. Upon receipt of your judgment, examine it to ensure it bears the clerk's certification that it is a true and accurate copy of the original.
Prepare an affidavit containing the name, mailing address and Social Security number of both parties. If you do not have this information, you may say so in the affidavit. Take your affidavit to a notary public and have it executed. Do not sign the affidavit until you are before the notary.
File your final judgment and affidavit with the clerk of court in the family law division of your local county courthouse. The clerk will record your judgment and affidavit, and send notice of your filing to the opposing party.
Pay the filing fee. Contact the clerk in advance to determine the amount of the fee as well as what forms of payment the clerk will accept. At the time of publication, Sarasota County charges approximately $400 to domesticate a foreign divorce judgment, but the filing fees vary from county to county. All clerks of court accept cash or checks, but many refuse to accept credit or debit card payments.
Wait 30 days. Domestication is complete once a 30-day waiting period passes.
Your foreign judgment is domesticated at the end of a 30-day waiting period during which the opposing party is permitted to challenge your actions. If no challenge is filed, your foreign judgment becomes enforceable in Florida. Failure to pay child or spousal support are typical examples of the type of enforcement action you will be able to bring once the domestication process is complete.
The other party may choose to challenge your request to domesticate the judgment. Challenges may include a claim that the originating court lacked jurisdiction to enter the judgment. If this happens, you may be required to provide additional proof in a hearing before the court that the judgment in question is valid and enforceable. Proving up jurisdiction and enforceability will require knowledge of Florida's evidence code and is likely to require legal argument which is beyond the abilities of most laypersons. Should this happen, you may need to hire a Florida attorney to assist you.
Art Smithers is a Florida lawyer who was admitted to the bar in 1985. Now a professional writer, his experience and background include work in business, corporate, estate, juvenile, appellate and family law. Smithers is board-certified in the state of Florida.