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Domesticating a Money Judgment Isn’t as Strange as It Sounds

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Judgment Collectors

The practice of law is littered with terms that sound strange to untrained ears. For example, have you ever heard of ‘domesticating’ a money judgment? Domestication is a topic we normally associate with animals. Applying it to law just seems strange. But here is the deal: once you understand what it means, domestication is not as strange as it sounds.

Domestication, in relation to money judgments, is simply a way to pursue enforcement in multiple jurisdictions. It is actually a legal tool that gives judgment creditors the authority to pursue debtors even outside the original jurisdiction in which their judgments were recorded. Domestication is a critical tool as well. Without it, creditors would have very little recourse when debtors try to avoid paying by hiding assets or moving.

How a Judgment Is Recorded

Before a judgment creditor (the winning party in a civil lawsuit) can begin collecting a money judgment, the judgment needs to be recorded by the court. Salt Lake City’s Judgment Collectors says recording is a straightforward process. They explain that the court clerk receives the necessary information from the court itself, then uses that information to create a public record.

It’s important to note that a judgment is recorded in the same jurisdiction as the court that made the judgment. If you were to win a civil judgment in Salt Lake County, Utah, it would be recorded in Salt Lake County. You could then begin enforcement proceedings within county borders.

Enforcement Outside of the County

What if a property search turned up a piece of investment property in a neighboring county? If you wanted to leverage that property as a motivation to pay, you would have to have the judgment domesticated in that neighboring county. The process is pretty simple.

Your attorney would file the appropriate paperwork with the neighboring county’s court clerk. Assuming all your paperwork was in order, the clerk would record the judgment to create an official document in that county. Once the record is official, the judgment has been domesticated.

The thing to remember is that domestication is not universal. You would have to domesticate the judgment in every Utah county in which you wanted to pursue collection efforts. You could also pursue collection across state lines through the same means.

Collection Varies by State

Keeping with the previously cited example, maybe the debtor you are chasing packs up and leaves the state. He crosses the border into Arizona, finds a new place to live, and resumes his life. You can have your original judgment domesticated in his new county of residence, despite the fact that he is now living in Arizona. However, there is a catch.

Civil litigation and judgments are regulated at the state level. Arizona’s rules may be different than Utah’s. So even though you can domesticate your judgment in Arizona, any collection efforts in that state must adhere to state law. Utah regulations do not apply in Arizona.

Using an Attorney or Collection Agency

Using an attorney or collection agency to manage judgment enforcement is always a good idea. It is even more so when a judgment has to be domesticated elsewhere. Once a creditor gets into domestication, there are all sorts of jurisdictional concerns to account for. Attempting it without sufficient knowledge could get a creditor in trouble.

Domestication is not an ideal situation. But it is often necessary to pursue judgment debtors who do their best to avoid paying up. Domestication requires getting another jurisdiction involved. Despite the fact that doing so complicates matters, domestication may be unavoidable if a judgment creditor hopes to get paid.