A party that is awarded money in a lawsuit is called a judgment creditor. They have proven that a sum of money is owed to them and are further allowed to use the judicial system for the purpose of debt collection. Sounds easy, right? Collecting a debt can actually be extremely difficult if the opposing party and their personal assets are located in a different U.S. jurisdiction. In that scenario, the judgment creditor could be forced to relitigate the entire matter in the other jurisdiction, a requirement that many have recognized as being a waste of both public and private resources. In 1948, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws created the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act as a way to deal with this problem. It has been adopted by all but two states with Massachusetts being the most recent in 2019.
Specifically called the Massachusetts Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, this law establishes a streamlined process for “domesticating” court judgments from other states. Judgment creditors can now enforce out-of-state judgments in Massachusetts provided they adhere to the requirements of the MUEFJA.
A judgment creditor looking enforce a judgment from a foreign jurisdiction in Massachusetts is first required to file a certified copy of the judgment with the district court where they either live or have a place of business. The copy of the judgment must be accompanied by an affidavit containing the name and last known address of the other party. Subsequently, the clerk’s office will provide notice to the other party of the judgment creditor’s filing. The judgment creditor must then wait 30 days before a writ of execution can be issued. A writ of execution is a legal document that authorizes a sheriff to “attach” non-exempt personal property belonging to the other party and sell it through a public auction, using the proceeds to satisfy the judgment. The filing fee for domesticating a foreign judgment in Massachusetts under the MUEFJA is $195.
It is also important to note the Massachusetts court judgments can now be domesticated in other states using their foreign judgment registration practices. Before passage of the MUEFJA last year, judgment creditors from Massachusetts could not collect debts in other states in such a simplified fashion.
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