One of my clients had a judgment entered against him from a business transaction in Florida during a time when he was living in Florida. After the business relationship ended, and after the lawsuit and judgment, my client moved to Canada where he established a new residence. He asked whether the Florida judgment could be enforced in Canada and whether his Canadian assets are protected under Florida law inasmuch as the judgment was entered in a Florida court.
A creditor cannot domesticate a Florida judgment in Canada by the simple process of recording the judgment. The creditor must commence a new action to “sue on the judgment.” Canadian courts will generally issue a new Canadian judgment if the court finds that the Florida court properly had jurisdiction over the person and the matter in Florida. In time, the Florida creditor will probably obtain a Canadian judgment for same amount of money.
The client’s asset exemptions are based upon Canadian law. The exemptions differ among the different government provinces in Canada just as exemptions vary among states in the U.S. Canada does not provide the unlimited homestead exemption found in Florida. Canada does recognize the concept of tenants by entireties, and tenants by entireties financial accounts are not subject to garnishment to enforce judgments against one spouse. My research indicates that offshore trusts and LLCs may be relatively effective defenses against enforcement of Canadian judgments.
So, a Florida judgment can follow a debtor who moves to Canada. It will take the creditor some time and effort to establish the judgment in Canada, but after doing his, the creditor’s collection against the debtor will occur under laws of the Canadian province where the debtor resides.
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