What is Judgment Domestication ? Do I need it, and what does it take to get a Sister State Judgment? Should I domesticate my judgement to California? These are questions I get fairly often, and this article should help to answer them.
What is judgment domestication and/or a Sister State Judgment?
The scenario happens all too often: Plaintiff obtains a judgment, and at some point either before the judgment enforcement begins (or sometimes during) the defendant/judgment debtor picks up and leaves the State, likely rendering judgment collection almost impossible in the State where the judgment was issued.
Unfortunately for creditors, judgment enforcement laws are all different depending on the state, and you cannot enforce any judgment against a debtor in California unless it is a California judgment. And whether it’s the climate or the movie stars or the beaches, I cannot tell you, but I do know debtors love running away to California.
Fortunately for Creditors, there is a process by which an out of state creditor can “move” (or “domesticate”) their out of state judgment to California, and start enforcing here- it is called the Sister State Judgment process. The judgment must be domesticated (or “Sister-Stated”) to the courthouse local to where the debtor resides- meaning the debtor must be tracked down, and the domestication papers filed in the Debtors local County Court.
Because the U.S. Constitution requires that States recognize the judgments and decrees of other States, once the domestication process is started, there are very few defenses that the debtor has to prevent the entry of the sister state judgment (and the ones that do exist, we are prepared to deal with). Once the domestication process is completed, the creditor will have a Sister-State-Judgment- which is a full fledged California judgment, enforceable just as if the judgment originated in California in the first place.
Should I Domesticate my Judgment to California?
As with most questions, the answer to this question is “It depends.” Sister stating a judgment is cheap, as far as legal services go- but the economics of the situation still need to be considered. If a judgment is totally uncollectable (debtor on public assistance, in jail, etc), it may not be worth any money at all to domesticate. However, if the debtor has assets of any kind, it may be a good idea to domesticate because that allows a creditor to put liens down on assets in CA. Judgment liens from out of state will not generally reach assets in CA.
Another factor to consider is whether the creditor wants to “tip the debtor off.” The debtor will get notice when the creditor domesticates the judgment. He might then not buy that new car in his own name, but may put it in his mothers or his brothers name instead. On the other hand, a creditor who waits to domesticate runs the risk that later creditors might get to the debtors assets first- People who have a judgment against them usually end up with more than one– and the general rule of enforcing on debtor assets is “first come, first served”- so if a creditor down the road gets a lien on the debtors house before you do because you decided to wait to domstication, even if their debt came later, your debt is forever behind theirs in line, when it comes to getting money from the debtors house.
So, as with most things in life, even this seemingly simple thing is not as simple as it seems. Luckily, we here at Evanns Collection Law offices pick up our phones, and will talk to you about your domestication situation and your debtor, and give you our best and most honest opinion on what you should do- and won’t charge you anything for it.
Should you choose to use our firm to domesticate your judgment to California, we charge one FLAT FEE – (no hidden charges or coming back later for additional money) – and for that we perform the following services:
- Skip trace your debtor anywhere in California;
- File the proper papers and documents in the appropriate Court (anywhere in CA);
- Serve the Debtor anywhere in CA (we have process servers that can go anywhere in the State)
- Put down a real estate lien on any property in the County where the Debtor lives; and
- File a personal property lien with the CA Secretary of State, which reaches other personal property of the debtor.
We do all for one very reasonable flat fee. Feel free to give us a call to learn more. Evanns Collection Law Firm, 213 – 404 – 1002