Monday, November 26, 2012

Across state lines

Every court in the United States operates under geographic limits to its power and authority, or its "jurisdiction." A state court in Utah, for example, has no authority over a private person residing in Alabama who stays in Alabama and who does not conduct any business in Utah. Sometimes the question of a state's jurisdiction over people living elsewhere can be very complicated.

 But, you can always be called into court in the state where you live.

 The question is, what about when you get sued in one state but you move to another state before the money judgment in the first state is paid off? Will the judgment follow you around the country wherever you go?

 The short answer is "yes."

 It is not quite automatic, but it is cheap and easy for a judgment creditor to register a judgment from one state court in a different state. At last count, 47 states and several U. S. Territories have enacted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. In this usage "foreign" means a different state in the U. S., not a foreign country. Even in those few states that have not adopted the Uniform Act, there are other procedures that allow debt collections to follow you around the country. Further, a handful of states have slightly modified the Uniform Act to exclude the automatic importation of default judgments. Check your local statute.

 Keep in mind that an order of wage garnishment is not the same as a judgment, but its effect depends upon the geographic location of the employer, and not the location of the debtor-employee.