Can You Enforce A Foreign Divorce Judgment in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • Divorce Attorneys in Connecticut may be asked to enforce a “foreign divorce.” In Connecticut, the term “foreign divorce” means a divorce that took place in another state or country.
  • If you move to Connecticut after getting divorced in another state, you can enforce the judgment in Connecticut so long as the issuing state had jurisdiction to enter the judgment, both parties filed appearances in the divorce action, and the judgment is final.
  • If you move to Connecticut after getting divorced in another country, Connecticut will still enforce the judgment as long as it is not contrary to public policy or the morals of this state.
  • Before you can enforce your foreign divorce, you must first follow Connecticut procedure to file the foreign judgment with the court.

Connecticut Will Give Full Faith and Credit to Out-of-State Judgments

“Full faith and credit” means that Connecticut must give an out-of-state judgment the same force and effect to which the order is entitled to in the issuing state. However, before full faith and credit is given, Connecticut has threshold requirements which must be met. First, Connecticut requires the issuing state to have had jurisdiction to grant the divorce. Proper jurisdiction means that at least one of the parties to the divorce action was domiciled in the state at the time of the order (even if domicile might not have been required in that state). Second, in order to enforce alimony and support orders, the Connecticut court requires both parties to have filed appearances in the out-of-state proceeding. This ensures that both parties were aware of the orders rendered by the foreign state. Third, the orders must be final orders, and not temporary in nature. For example, a judgment that is pending appeal in one state cannot be enforced in Connecticut until it is adjudicated.

Divorce Judgments from Other Countries May be Enforceable in Connecticut

A divorce decree rendered in another country is not given, per se, full faith and credit in Connecticut. However, the Connecticut court will generally recognize and enforce a divorce judgment from another country if it is not contrary to the public policy or morals of the state of Connecticut. For example, if the jurisdictional requirements of the foreign country were met, but those requirements are contrary to the public policy of Connecticut, the court in Connecticut may decline to recognize and enforce the judgment.

You Must File the Foreign Judgment in Connecticut Before You Can Enforce It

In order to enforce a foreign judgment, you must first follow a specific procedure to file the foreign judgment with the Connecticut courthouse in which you are seeking enforcement. For example, if you live in Darien or Greenwich, you would seek enforcement in the Stamford Superior Court. According to Connecticut General Statutes §46b-71, you must:

  1. File a certified copy of the foreign judgment.
  2. Submit a certification stating that the judgment is final and has not been modified, altered, amended, set aside, vacated, stayed, or suspended. The certification must also include the full name and last known address of the other party.
  3. If the judgment has been modified, altered, or amended, submit an affidavit describing the modification or amendment, as well as certified copies of the modification or amendment. The Connecticut court will ultimately enforce the judgment as modified, altered, or amended.
  4. Notify the other party of the filing, by certified mail or personal service, within five days, and provide proof of service to the court.

You will not be able to take any action to enforce the judgment for a period of twenty days, to allow the other party the opportunity to advise the court of additional terms or modifications of the judgment. Once the twenty days has expired, the matter will be assigned a docket number and you may proceed in attempting enforcement or modification of the order.

If you or your ex-spouse live in Connecticut and you need to enforce a foreign judgment, it is important to hire experienced counsel to guide you through the process. The team of attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC can help you assess your case, file your judgment, and litigate the enforcement as necessary.