Judgment debtors sometimes relocate from a state where a final judgment is rendered against them. Although a final judgment has been rendered, creditors are left scrambling because the judgment has not been satisfied. In this situation, creditors need to evaluate state statutory law in order to enforce a foreign judgment against the judgment debtor. In other words, creditors can enforce a foreign judgment by domesticating it, i.e., enforcing an out of state judgment in another state against the judgment debtor per that state’s statutory procedural requirements.
North Carolina, like most states, has adopted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act which details certain procedural requirements an attorney or judgment creditor must follow in order to domesticate an out of state judgment. Under the North Carolina statute, an individual may file an authenticated copy of the foreign judgment with the office of the clerk of superior court in any county of North Carolina where the judgment debtor resides or has real or personal property. In addition, the attorney or judgment creditor must file an affidavit with the clerk of superior court indicating that the judgment is final and is unsatisfied in whole or in part, setting forth the amount remaining unpaid on the judgment. Once filed, the attorney or judgment creditor must serve the defendant with a notice of filing along with the final judgment and affidavit attached to the notice. Once served, the defendant has 30 days in which to seek relief from the enforcement of the judgment. However, if the defendant fails to seek relief within the 30 day period, the judgment will be entered and enforced as any other judgment in North Carolina. Therefore, if a valid dispute exists, a defendant would benefit by responding as soon as possible once he or she receives service of process. In order to attack the judgment, a defendant may file a motion seeking relief from the judgment or assert any defense the defendant is entitled to assert under North Carolina law. Despite North Carolina’s statutory provisions providing for the domestication of foreign judgments, a creditor may also bring a civil action to enforce the creditor’s judgment.
In sum, a creditor has options to enforce their claim against a debtor who relocates to another state or holds personal or real property in another state. A creditor can either follow the statutory provisions to domesticate an out of state judgment in North Carolina or proceed against the debtor by filing a civil action.