In today’s global economy, dealing with assets in multiple countries is becoming increasingly common, especially with neighboring countries like the United States and Canada. Accordingly, it may become necessary to pursue a judgment debtor in Arizona to collect on a judgment obtained in Canada. The Arizona state legislature has adopted the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act in order to address and remedy this exact situation. Even with the Act, collecting on a judgment from Canada is a complex process. If you have a judgment from a provincial or superior court in Canada and are considering collecting in Arizona, please speak with one of our experienced attorneys today.
Hilton v. Guyot established the fundamental basis for recognizing and enforcing foreign judgments in the U.S. In the Hilton case, a federal district court held that a French court judgment was enforceable on a U.S. defendant without any retrial. While the Hilton decision made enforcing foreign judgments possible, enforcing such judgments in the U.S. remained arduous, expensive, and uncertain due to the lack of legislation and clear common law principles. In 1962, following the example of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (1948), the Uniform Law Commissioners announced the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act. While the 1948 Act allowed for states to enforce judgments made in other states, the Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act provided for enforcement of foreign country judgments in the United States state courts. Arizona has adopted this uniform law through Title 12 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) as the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act and it remains good law today.
Before attempting to register and enforce your Canadian judgment in an Arizona court, you must decide if the Arizona courts will actually recognize the foreign judgment. As a plaintiff attempting to enforce the judgment, you have the burden of establishing that such judgment should be recognized under Arizona law. The following statutory conditions must be met for recognition to apply under the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act:
Pursuant to Arizona Law, only judgments that are “final, conclusive and enforceable” in the country where the judgment is rendered may be enforceable in Arizona. Finality of the judgment means that the court resolved all issues in dispute and settled the parties’ rights with respect to those issues. As long as the judgment rendered by the court in Canada is final and enforceable in Canada, it would qualify for domestication under the Act.
A judgment rendered by the Canadian court must grant or deny the recovery of a sum of money to be enforceable in Arizona. Judgments for injunctive relief or a judgment for taxes, a fine, criminal penalty, or a judgment for support in a family matter are not enforceable under the Act. For recognition of family matter related judgments, see Domestic Relations Judgments section at the end of this article.
If the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act applies to your foreign judgment (meaning that it is final and for monetary damages), then you can proceed to register the judgment in Arizona. This is sometimes referred to as the domestication process. In order to start this application process, you will need to file an application for registration of the foreign-country judgment together with an authenticated copy (also called exemplified copy or triple-seal copy) of the foreign judgment with the clerk’s office of any superior court in Arizona. To receive the authenticated copy of your judgment, you will need to contact the foreign court that originally issued the judgment and receive the authenticated copy of the judgment from that court. Additionally, the clerk’s office of the Arizona superior court also requires that you include several other documents in your application, including: an affidavit substantiating the foreign judgment, notice of filing the foreign judgment, a civil cover sheet, and notice to the debtor of filing the foreign judgment, to name a few.
Under the law, the Arizona court may deny recognition of the judgment only for reasons such as:
Once the authenticated copy of the foreign judgment is filed, the court will treat the judgment as an Arizona judgment for purpose of collection. This means that you can record the domesticated judgment in any Arizona county and that it will be a lien on any real property owned by the judgment debtor in the county in which it is recorded. At this point, you will be able to start any collection process available under law, such as garnishment of earnings and other assets, writs of execution, etc.
While the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Recognition Act does not apply to a foreign judgment that is “for divorce, support or maintenance or other judgment rendered in connection with domestic relations,” it is still possible to register a foreign-country domestic relations judgment for enforcement in Arizona under A.R.S. 25-1302.
In order to register the judgment for enforcement, you must send a letter to the court in Arizona requesting registration and enforcement along with:
Once this information is provided to the court in Arizona and the judgment is filed with the court, you will be able to start collecting on the judgment in Arizona. While current and future payments on foreign child support are collected automatically, this is not the case with previous arrears judgments rendered in connection with domestic relations. These are the general procedural steps for registering and collecting on a domestic relations related Canadian judgment in Arizona. Our attorneys have already fought these battles for our clients, helping them obtain the money they deserve.
Here at Denton Peterson, our experienced attorneys are prepared to help you collect on the money that is rightfully yours. If you have a judgment from a Canadian or other foreign court that needs to be collected on, give us a call today.