Enforce your foreign judgment in the U.S.
If you have a German judgment and the Defendant lives in the United States, in order to enforce the judgment and to collect, your foreign judgment must be recognized in the United States.
This, unfortunately, is easier said than done because not all states in the United States have enacted the so called UFMJRA.
If you want to enforce your German judgment in the U.S. in a state that has not enacted the UFMJRA, your only basis is a claim based on common law rules.
Facts that you need to know:
- In order to obtain a judicial recognition of the judgment from the American court, the following requirements must be met:
- There is no agreement between Germany and the U.S. regarding the enforceability of a German judgment. Consequently, a new action with the court having jurisdiction over the residence of the defendant must be filed.
- Certified copy of the German judgment along with an Apostille based on the Hague Convention: To be obtained from the court in Germany; German state law apply.
- Permissible/authorized German judgments: Generally accepted German judgments by American courts
Judgments by default;
Judgments regarding costs;
Order regarding alimony for minors;
Writ of execution; and
Judicial settlements and private settlements Judgment must require payment
- Special procedures for payment judgments under the Uniform Foreign Money Judgment Recognition Act (UFMJRA) must be followed:
- The UFMJRA applies to 30 states in the United States. This means that some states have not enacted a UFMJRA and the basis for recognizing a foreign judgment is common law.
- Should the state in which the Defendant resides has enacted the UFMJRA, the consequence for you is that the Defendant can only allege the following defenses:
The German court did not have jurisdiction over the matter, §4 of the UFMJRA.
The judgment is not legally binding or final yet as it still can be appealed.
The Defendant could not defend himself, §4 of the UFMJRA.
The recognition of the foreign judgment would violate “ordre public” / public policy, which means that the foreign process must have been fair and objective, §4 of the UFMJRA:
- The statement of claim must have had an English translation attached or at least a letter that summarized the content of the documents and that states important dates and deadlines. This is not necessary if a German attorney represented the Defendant.
- U.S. courts usually do not examine if the claim is reasonable and if the above requirements are met. It is only necessary that the American court thinks that the German court had jurisdiction over the dispute. Additionally, the American court will examine if there was a sufficient relationship between the Defendant and the German court.
- The Defendant usually receives 30 days to raise objections against the enforcement of the German judgment. If there are no timely objections, the U.S. court can recognized the German judgment as enforceable, which can be enforced the same way as an American judgment would be enforced without having to notify the former Defendant.
- Attorney fees and court fees: U.S. law is applicable. Former plaintiff may ask for interests in the amount of 5-10% from the time of the German judgment until the U.S. court recognizes the German judgment and declares it enforceable under U.S. law.
Although this provides you with a first overview of how to enforce a German judgment in the U.S., it only provides a brief overview and not all issues that may arise are discussed above. If you plan to have your German judgment recognized and enforced in Germany, please first schedule a consultation with us in order for us to determine if your judgment is recognizable and enforceable in the United States. Contact us at 989.687.5255 and we will be happy to schedule a first consultation.