Does Florida have reciprocity with Pennsylvania concerning small claim judgments?

Given the uncertain economic times it’s not unusual for debtors to miss debt payments. Debtors who fail to make debt payments within a specified time may be sued. For debts which are under a specified monetary limit, creditors may be able to file their claims in small claims court.

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “If I have filed a claim against someone who owes me money and they have moved to Florida, if I have won a judgment in small claims court in Pennsylvania does Florida have reciprocity with Pennsylvania concerning small claim judgments? Can I still get my money?”

What is a judgment?

A judgment is a decision issued by a court after one party brings a lawsuit against another party. The judgment will detail the obligations of one party towards the other. For example, if you bring a judgment in small claims court against a person who owes you money, if you win your case, the court will issue a judgment outlining how much the other party must pay.

How do I collect my judgment from a small claims judgment?

If you are successful in your small claims case you are allowed to collect the money by any means outlined by law. For example the law may allow a seizure of property or wage garnishments. State laws, however, vary, and not all states allow wage garnishments for all debts.

Why would I seek judgments in another state?

There are several reasons why a creditor who is owed money may seek a judgment in a state other than the state where it was originally awarded. For instance, debtors may decide to move to another state and there may not be any assets which can be liquidated to satisfy the judgment in the original state. The debtor may also maintain residence in the original state but own property in another state.

The good news is constitutional law allows the judgments issued in one state to be enforced in other states. Article 4, Section 1 of the Constitution states:

“...full faith and credit shall be given in each State of the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe that manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.”

The bad news is, although the judgments can be enforced, states have various processes for enforcing the judgments, and it may not be automatic.

Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act

Whether or not you will have to re-litigate to enforce a judgment from another state will depend on whether the states have adopted the Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act.

For example, states that have adopted the Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act will allow a judgment from another state to be enforced simply by filing the judgment in the office of a Clerk of Court in the new state. After the filing the judgment it is as if the judgment had been issued by the current court and enforcement moves forward (unless there has been an appeal in the state of origin).

Other states which have not adopted the Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, however, will require the plaintiff to file another suit in their state based on the judgment. Talk to the court if you have questions or discuss your case with a lawyer.

States which have adopted the Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act include the following:

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nevada
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
Virgin Islands
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

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