Take Control Blog

Domesticating Your Divorce

In today’s connected and mobile world, moving from one state to another or even to another country is not uncommon. However, not many of us stop to think about how such moves affect a divorce decree.

Enforcing or modifying the terms of a divorce settlement in a state where it was not filed is not as easy as forwarding the mail or changing a mailing address. In such case, a viable option is to “move” the divorce from the original filing state to the one of current residency.

Don and Jessica were divorced 7 years ago, bringing to an end their 25 year marriage. The divorce was settled via mediation and a final judgment entered in an Ohio family court. In the final judgment there were several stipulations regarding future payments due to Jessica from Don. There are two children from the marriage, but both were emancipated shortly after the divorce.

A couple of years after the divorce Jessica moved to South Florida with the children. Like Jessica, soon after the divorce, Don moved from Ohio to a foreign country to pursue a job opportunity. Although each moved and years passed since the divorce, Don continued to honor the financial stipulations resulting from the divorce.

However, over the course of the last year, the situation changed. The payments stopped coming. When addressing the issue with Don, Jessica received poor excuses or no response at all. Jessica feels like Don is leaving her no choice but to enforce the terms of the divorce decree.

However, with her living in South Florida and the court of jurisdiction in Ohio, Jessica is not sure how to proceed.  Needing the money due to her, doing nothing is not an option for Jessica. As such, Jessica is now considering one of two options: 1) Work through the Ohio court to enforce her rights; or 2) change the court of jurisdiction to one in South Florida and then follow the legal process locally. The second option could likely be less expensive and of greater convenience for Jessica.

The process of “moving” a final judgment from one state (and even from a foreign country) to another state is call domesticating a judgment. Most states, including Florida, allow domestication of divorce decrees so that you can use the local court to enforce the final judgment from another state. The initiation of a domestication process begins with the filing a Petition for Domestication.

Although this is a process that some individuals decide to take on by themselves, it could get legally complicated, especially if an ex-spouse decides to contest the domestication request. In Jessica’s case, with her ex-husband living in another country, along with some complicated matters in her decree, she opted to retain a South Florida-based attorney to carry out the domestication action.