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How to Enforce a Foreign Divorce Decree


As technology and the means of transportation improve, more and more people are finding it easier to relocate, with many even moving overseas. Whether undertaken for employment purposes, retirement, or a mere desire for change, the ease with which people can change residences can pose difficulties when it comes to divorce-related matters, as couples who live in different states or countries often face unique issues when it comes to enforcing or modifying divorce orders. This is because all court orders issued outside of a state are considered foreign judgements and aren’t automatically recognized by local courts, which in many cases, means that  one or both parties will need to travel to the court where the divorce was granted before its terms can be amended. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this general rule, so if you no longer live in Florida, but your divorce was granted here or you are now a resident of the state and your divorce orders were issued somewhere else, please contact an experienced divorce attorney who can explain your legal options.

Domesticating a Foreign Court Order  

In most cases, after a judge issues a divorce order, the parties must return to the same court if they want to modify or enforce it in some way. This can prove extremely difficult if one of the parties later moves out of state or out of the country. Fortunately, there are situations in which a court will recognize the validity of a foreign court order. For instance, in some cases, it is possible to domesticate a foreign court order, which requires proof that the order, which was issued out of state or in a different country, was issued lawfully. Orders issued by other U.S. states are automatically recognized as valid, as long as the proper procedures for domestication are followed. Divorce orders issued by other countries, although enforceable, are a bit more difficult to domesticate and courts generally use a greater level of scrutiny to assess:

  • Whether any evidence of partiality exists;
  • Whether there is proof of a lack of due process;
  • Whether there is evidence that the issuing court lacked jurisdiction; and
  • Whether the foreign judgment is consistent with Florida law and public policy.

If a Florida court is satisfied as to these elements, then the order will most likely be domesticated, which means that it will be treated as if it were issued by a Florida state court. However, before a Florida court will consider legitimizing a foreign court order, the petitioner must satisfy a series of requirements. For instance, the party seeking modification or enforcement of a court order must:

  • Obtain a certified copy of the judgment; and
  • Obtain a statement of the facts.

These documents are then submitted to the clerk of the court, after which, the defendant is given one month to respond. As long as the judgement hasn’t been changed, isn’t on appeal, and no other proceedings are pending, the court will most likely accept the order.

Contact an Experienced Florida Divorce Attorney  

To speak with dedicated Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. about changing or enforcing your current divorce order, please call 954-945-7591 and a member of our legal team will help you schedule a free consultation.



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