final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Bay County. Shonna Young
R. Seaton of Seaton Law Offices, P.A., Panama City, for
L. Sirianni, Jr., of Brownstone, P.A., Winter Park, for
New appeals the Florida trial court's denial of her
Petition for Domestication of a final order entered in
Georgia. The Georgia order holds Charles Bennett, her former
spouse, in contempt of court and orders his immediate
incarceration until payment of child support arrearages. New
argues that pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause, a
sister state's judgment must be recognized in the absence
of jurisdictional invalidity or extrinsic fraud, neither of
which were proven by Bennett. We agree and reverse and remand
the case for domestication of the Georgia order.
parties were divorced in Okaloosa County, Florida, on October
23, 2008. The divorce decree requires Bennett to pay child
support and provide health and dental insurance, among other
financial obligations. Shortly after the parties divorced,
New and the children relocated to Georgia. In December of
2013, New filed a complaint in Georgia requesting that the
2008 divorce decree entered in Florida be registered and
enforced by the court in Coweta County, Georgia. The
complaint, which was properly served upon Bennett, alleged
Bennett's failure to comply with the divorce decree. A
hearing was scheduled in Georgia for March 24, 2015, to
address temporary relief. Prior to the hearing, Bennett filed
a responsive pleading. Neither Bennett nor his attorney
appeared for the hearing despite receiving notice. The
Georgia trial court noted that upon review of Bennett's
response it was unable to determine either the relief
requested or the defenses asserted. As a result of the March
hearing, a contempt order was entered on April 17, 2015. A
final hearing was scheduled for December 7, 2015. Despite
notice of the final hearing to all parties, Bennett and his
attorney were again no-shows. As a result of the hearing, the
Georgia trial court determined both that: 1) New had complied
with the requirements to register the Florida divorce decree
for enforcement in Georgia; and 2) the pleading filed by
Bennett was intended as an objection to registration of the
Florida divorce decree in Georgia. The Georgia trial court
denied Bennett's objection to registration, held him in
contempt and ordered his immediate incarceration until
payment of $23, 417.85 in support arrearages and previously
awarded attorney's fees.
late 2016, Bennett had apparently not returned to Coweta
County, Georgia, or had done so unbeknownst to law
enforcement. Accordingly, he had not been incarcerated nor
had he paid the outstanding child support. In further effort
to obtain relief and to enforce the Georgia order, New filed
in Florida a Petition for Domestication of Foreign Order in
accordance with sections 55.503 and 55.505, Florida Statutes.
New filed the petition in Bay County, Florida, where Bennett
was living. In response, Bennett filed a Motion to Strike. A
hearing was scheduled, and this time, Bennett and his
attorney appeared. Ultimately, the Florida trial court denied
New's request for domestication of the Georgia order,
concluding the Georgia court lacked proper jurisdiction to
find Bennett in willful contempt and subject to imprisonment
- as the contempt order was issued without a jury trial. The
trial court further concluded that the Georgia order lacked
the requisite findings to order Bennett's incarceration,
even if jurisdiction was proper, because the Georgia court
did not find Bennett had the present ability to pay the
amount awarded.[*] This appeal followed.
enacted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, or
Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (FEFJA), in
1984." Patrick v. Hess, 212 So.3d 1039, 1042
(Fla. 2017); see also §§ 55.501-509, Fla.
Stat. (2016). FEFJA was intended to provide an efficient
method of enforcing foreign judgments without the undue cost
and difficulty associated with filing a new, separate action
to domesticate a foreign judgment. Pratt v. Equity
Bank, N.A., 124
So. 3d 313, 315 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013). A foreign judgment
domesticated under FEFJA has the same effect as a Florida
judgment and is subject to the same legal and equitable
defenses and rules of procedure. Desert Palace, Inc. v.
Wiley, 145 So.3d 946, 947 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014).
stems from the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United
States Constitution, which states: "Full Faith and
Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts,
Records, and judicial proceedings of every other State."
U.S. Const. art. IV, § 1. In the Full Faith and Credit
context, if the first state had jurisdiction over the parties
and the subject matter, "'the validity of the claim
on which the foreign judgment was entered is not open to
inquiry."' M & R Invs. Co. v. Hacker,
511 So.2d 1099, 1101 (Fla. 5th DCA 1987) (quoting Trauger
v. A.J. Spagnol Lumber Co., Inc., 442 So.2d 182, 183
(Fla.1983). "A foreign order of contempt is entitled to
full faith and credit in Florida if it is valid in the state
in which it was issued."
Roosa v. Roosa, 519 So.2d 1108, 1109 (Fla. 4th
to the Full Faith and Credit Clause, a sister state's
judgment must be recognized, but it may be attacked for
either lack of jurisdiction or extrinsic fraud. Hinchee
v. Golden Oak Bank, 540 So.2d 262, 263 (Fla. 2d DCA
1989). "[T]he validity of the foreign judgment must be
analyzed under the law of the foreign state."
Id. at 263. If a Florida litigant shows that a
sister state's judgment is valid and final and that
subject matter and personal jurisdiction existed in the
foreign state, the judgment is properly authenticated.
See Robinson v. Robinson,487 So.2d 67, 68 (Fla. 1st
DCA 1986). A Florida court should not "attempt to
determine the validity of a judgment or decree of a ...