How to Torpedo Your Debt Collection Suit in Georgia–Mistake 2

Another common mistake we find is that the credit manager did not record and bill the debt in the proper legal name of the customer. We recommend, along with taking a credit application, that the credit manager pull up the corporate name supplied by the customer and verify the name of the company with the Secretary of State’s office. Additionally, it’s generally a good idea to see if the owners of the company have opened any new companies or similarly named companies. It’s particularly troubling to get a judgment against Joe’s Tires, LLC to find out that the business lease and assets are held by Joe’s Tires of Marietta, LLC, and that the customer applied for credit in the name of an entity with little to no assets. A simple check with the Secretary of State may prevent such a catastrophic error. A credit manager that takes steps to properly “know the customer” at the beginning of the relationship makes my job in collecting a debt much easier.

How to Torpedo Your Debt Collection Suit in Georgia–Mistake 1

Believe it or not, one of the biggest mistakes I see occurs when the employee in charge of hiring the attorney to file the commercial debt collection lawsuit in Georgia does not actually know the true legal name of the company where he/she works! You would think this is a rare issue, but it has come up more than I would like to remember. Often times companies merge or are sold, and the longtime employee continues to call the company by its “old” or “former” name. A lawsuit should be brought in the name of the proper company, and, ideally, not in a trade name for the company. A good credit manager will provide the attorney with a copy of the company’s current registration with the Secretary of State at the time the case is placed for collection.

How long do you have to sue to enforce a child support order in Georgia?

We often get calls seeking to collect past-due child support and alimony in Georgia. Those that call often wonder if they have waited too long to do anything about their problem. In 1997 the Georgia legislature added OCGA 9-12-60(d) removing the statute of limitations for enforcing child support arrears. If your order was issued AFTER July 1, 1997, you can stop reading now, your order is still valid.

IF your order granting a child support judgment was issued on or before July 1, 1997, however, your ability to enforce the order is determined by the “old” rules for determining Statute of Limitations and the life of a judgment (the new law is given prospective effect). In such a case originating in Georgia, Georgia law requires that the original judgment be revived by the issuance of a nulla bona every seven (7) years. Georgia allows for a dormant judgment to be renewed between three years of becoming dormant through a petition for Scire Facias. See Brown v. Brown. If neither of these steps were done in a timely basis, your ability to collect may be lost. If a portion of the child support due on the order was for monies due after July 1, 1997, that portion of the judgment may still be collectable.

To further complicate the issue, if the original judgment was issued before July 1, 1997, but in a State other than Georgia, the statute of limitations for either Georgia OR the original state would apply, whichever is longer. See Sussman v. Sussman. In the Sussman case, the court applied Massachusetts law, where the statute of limitations to enforce the judgment was 20 years, and held Sussman liable.

Enforcing Out of State Judgments in Georgia

What happens when your judgment debtor moves to Georgia without paying the judgment? Or when all the debtor’s assets are in Georgia? Is the out of state judgment enforceable in Georgia? NO, unless the judgment is properly domesticated in Georgia.

In this article, we will discuss entering a judgment in State Court or Superior Court in Georgia. For Federal Court there are different procedures. The judgments of foreign countries may, in certain instances, be entered, but we will also save discussion of that for another day.

The State of Georgia is, in theory, required to give full faith and credit to judgments of other states. In practice, you have two options 1) Filing a lawsuit to enter the foreign judgment in Georgia (domestication suit), or 2) filing to register the judgment under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. Under a new suit, the defendant would have to be personally served, and would have certain defenses to payment available, despite the sister state judgment. Under a registration, at least in theory the registration is a ministerial act, and the court must enter the judgment with the defendant receiving notice via regular and certified mail. The Defendant is not entitled to a hearing, but can challenge the registration in certain circumstances. In practice, most of the metro Atlanta counties have the court clerk enter the judgment without judicial involvement, unless the clerk sees something suspect in the registration. In about half of the counties, particularly rural counties where this type of filing is not done regularly, the Court will require a court order be signed by the Judge entering the foreign judgment before completing the registration process. Thus, it may take a few days or a few months to get a judgment registered, depending on the county. This is not how the process was intended, but certainly how it works.

Georgia’s version of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, located at O.C.G.A. 9-12-130 to 9-12-138, is rather standard. It requires the registration of a sister state judgment that has adopted the law in a manner substantially similar to Georgia. California and Vermont, with perhaps one other state, have not adopted the uniform act, and you have to use the “long” procedure for judgments from those states. A few states have adopted the act but do not recognize default judgments. I also ran across a strange quirk in Tennessee that has extra requirements before it will enter a foreign judgment for defamation. Nonetheless, 99% of the cases are simple contract cases in which the Uniform Act will apply.

The act requires the filing of an “authenticated” copy of the judgment. Many people call this copy a “triple seal” because in many states the clerk of court will adorn this authenticated copy with three signatures and/or multiple gold foil seals, though this is not the case in every state. If you need our services in entering a sister state judgment in Georgia, please go ahead and request the authenticated copy from your court system to avoid delays. This filing must be sent to the defendant at the time the request to register is made. Provided the defendant does not raise one of the few valid defenses, the court will sign the registration, and we can move on to the next steps of collecting the judgment and/or placing liens on the assets of the Defendant.

Our firm has filed foreign judgments coming from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, and Tennessee. We make these filings on a regular basis, and would be glad to assist you with such efforts. If you have any questions about the process, please contact our firm.