Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Family Law Procedure

The Full Faith and Credit Clause requires that a Florida court recognize another state's orders with some exceptions. In the case New v. Bennett, 1D17-3196 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018), the appellate court considered the appeal of a trial court's order denying a mother's petition to domesticate an out-of-state order that held her ex in contempt and ordered him to be incarcerated. 

The mother originally obtained a child support judgment in Florida and then subsequently moved to Georgia where she domesticated the Florida order for enforcement. The Georgia court entered an order holding the father in contempt of his obligation to pay child support. The father and his attorney did not appear at the hearing in Georgia despite receiving notice and despite the father himself filing a pleading in the Georgia case. 

After the father continued to avoid paying child support, the mother filed a petition for domestication of the Georgia order in Florida where the father resided, asking the Florida court to enforce the Georgia order of contempt. The Florida court denied the mother's petition, holding the Georgia court lacked jurisdiction to find the father in contempt without there being a jury trial and without there being a finding the father had the ability to pay his arrears. 

The appellate court reversed the trial court's ruling, holding, "Here, the trial court initiated an improper substantive review of the Georgia judgment. The Cadle Co., 907 So. 2d at 639. "The courts of Florida cannot be empowered by the legislature to review the underlying cause of action when a person seeks to enforce a foreign judgment in this state." Trauger, 442 So. 2d at 183-84. The validity of New's claim upon which the Georgia judgment was entered was not "open to inquiry" by the Florida trial court. See Stern vDejong, 462 So. 2d 41, 42 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984). Consistent with the Full Faith and Credit Clause, the Georgia order is impeachable in Florida only if the judgment is susceptible to collateral attack under the foreign state's jurisprudence. See Johnson vMuelberger, 340 U.S. 581, 589 (1951). These collateral attacks against judgments involve parties who have had their day in court. Where there has been participation by the parties in the foreign divorce proceedings and the parties have been given full opportunity to contest the jurisdictional issues, any further attack on the judgment is barred by res judicata. Sherrer vSherrer, 334 U.S. 343, 351 (1948)." 

Therefore, the trial court was required to domesticate and enforce the Georgia order as valid. If you are owed past-due child support, several remedies may be available to you. Discuss them during a consultation with a Miami child support lawyer