What happens when your judgment debtor moves to Georgia without paying the judgment? Or when all the debtor’s assets are in Georgia? Is the out of state judgment enforceable in Georgia? NO, unless the judgment is properly domesticated in Georgia.
In this article, we will discuss entering a judgment in State Court or Superior Court in Georgia. For Federal Court there are different procedures. The judgments of foreign countries may, in certain instances, be entered, but we will also save discussion of that for another day.
The State of Georgia is, in theory, required to give full faith and credit to judgments of other states. In practice, you have two options 1) Filing a lawsuit to enter the foreign judgment in Georgia (domestication suit), or 2) filing to register the judgment under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. Under a new suit, the defendant would have to be personally served, and would have certain defenses to payment available, despite the sister state judgment. Under a registration, at least in theory the registration is a ministerial act, and the court must enter the judgment with the defendant receiving notice via regular and certified mail. The Defendant is not entitled to a hearing, but can challenge the registration in certain circumstances. In practice, most of the metro Atlanta counties have the court clerk enter the judgment without judicial involvement, unless the clerk sees something suspect in the registration. In about half of the counties, particularly rural counties where this type of filing is not done regularly, the Court will require a court order be signed by the Judge entering the foreign judgment before completing the registration process. Thus, it may take a few days or a few months to get a judgment registered, depending on the county. This is not how the process was intended, but certainly how it works.
Georgia’s version of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, located at O.C.G.A. 9-12-130 to 9-12-138, is rather standard. It requires the registration of a sister state judgment that has adopted the law in a manner substantially similar to Georgia. California and Vermont, with perhaps one other state, have not adopted the uniform act, and you have to use the “long” procedure for judgments from those states. A few states have adopted the act but do not recognize default judgments. I also ran across a strange quirk in Tennessee that has extra requirements before it will enter a foreign judgment for defamation. Nonetheless, 99% of the cases are simple contract cases in which the Uniform Act will apply.
The act requires the filing of an “authenticated” copy of the judgment. Many people call this copy a “triple seal” because in many states the clerk of court will adorn this authenticated copy with three signatures and/or multiple gold foil seals, though this is not the case in every state. If you need our services in entering a sister state judgment in Georgia, please go ahead and request the authenticated copy from your court system to avoid delays. This filing must be sent to the defendant at the time the request to register is made. Provided the defendant does not raise one of the few valid defenses, the court will sign the registration, and we can move on to the next steps of collecting the judgment and/or placing liens on the assets of the Defendant.
Our firm has filed foreign judgments coming from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, and Tennessee. We make these filings on a regular basis, and would be glad to assist you with such efforts. If you have any questions about the process, please contact our firm.