How Do You Enforce an Out-of-State Judgment in Illinois?

Young successful smiling african businessman holding dollars as a concept for Litico Law Group's business attorneys provide representation and counsel for enforcement of judgment in Illinois, including out-of-state judgments.

If your business has prevailed in a lawsuit and you were awarded a judgment against a supplier, customer, or another company, the next step is to collect the amount you are owed. But you might be wondering how to collect on a judgment if it was issued in another state. In these cases, enforcing the judgment can be more complex — and require additional steps. Importantly, under the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution, foreign judgments rendered in other states must be treated the same as local judgments.

What is a Judgment?

A judgment is a court order that entitles you to collect a specific amount of money from the judgment debtor. It puts a lien on certain property, such as real estate, in the jurisdiction where the judgment was rendered. But the judgment is simply the court’s decision in a lawsuit — it is not the vehicle that collects the money for you. Additional steps may need to be taken to enforce the judgment and obtain the money that is rightfully yours.

Domesticating an Out-of-State Judgment in Illinois

An out-of-state judgment allows you to pursue a variety of collection efforts — but only in the state where it was entered. In the event a judgment debtor has assets in Illinois and the judgment was not issued within the state, you must take measures to register and “domesticate the judgment.” This is a separate legal process from obtaining a judgment and is permitted under Illinois law pursuant to the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (UEFJA).

To domesticate a judgment in Illinois, you must file an authenticated copy of the judgment, along with a detailed affidavit, a notice of filing, and a cover sheet with the clerk of the court. Once it has been properly registered, the foreign judgment will be recognized as an Illinois judgment. This means it can be enforced in the state and will have the same effect as any judgment that was originally rendered in Illinois. Generally, you can begin collection efforts immediately after the judgment has been domesticated.

For judgments that were entered outside of the United States, the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act (UFMJRA) applies. To register a judgment rendered in a foreign country in Illinois, the judgment must be final, enforceable, and conclusive. If it satisfies this criteria, it is entitled to the same full faith and credit as a judgment rendered in another state.

How to Collect on a Judgment After it Has Been Domesticated

Knowing how to collect on a judgment can be crucial to the success of your business and its bottom line. Critically, once an out-of-state judgment has been registered and domesticated, it becomes a lien on certain property owned by the debtor. There are a number of legal measures you can take to enforce a judgment and collect the amount you are owed.

Judgment collection efforts can include the following:

  • Wage garnishment — Wage garnishment allows a creditor to satisfy their judgment by collecting it from the debtor’s wages. This is done by filing the necessary documentation with the court and serving proper notice on the debtor’s employer. Under Illinois law, a creditor can recover 15 percent of a debtor’s nonexempt wages until the employee either leaves their employment or the judgment is paid in full.
  • Citation to discover assets — A citation to discover assets can be an essential judgment collection tool if you are collecting from a business entity or an individual. It allows you to demand that the debtor provide a variety of documentation regarding their assets, income, and debts. When a citation is served, it also creates a citation lien. This freezes the debtor’s assets and allows for other remedies, such as asset turnovers and charging orders. Failure to comply with the citation can result in contempt charges.
  • Non-wage garnishment — In addition to wage garnishment, non-wage garnishment can allow you to seize non-exempt assets from the debtor, including the funds in their bank account. In order to seize a debtor’s bank account funds, you must first serve a garnishment summons to the financial institution, as well as notice upon the debtor. Once the summons has been received, the bank will freeze the debtor’s accounts, which prevents them from withdrawing any funds until a resolution has been reached in the case. Importantly, the court order authorizing the asset seizure will specify a certain dollar amount. A creditor cannot recover more than the amount specified in the order.

Pursuant to Illinois law, a judgment must be enforced within seven years of its entry. While a judgment is not extinguished after that time, it becomes dormant. A dormant judgment can be revived within 20 years of the original entry — once it has been revived, it must be enforced within seven years.

Contact an Experienced Illinois Business Attorney

Enforcing a foreign judgment after you’ve prevailed in a commercial lawsuit is often complicated. If you are wondering how to collect on a judgment that was issued in another jurisdiction, it’s essential to have a skilled business attorney by your side who can help you navigate the judgment collection process. Located in Rolling Meadows, Litico Law Group's business attorneys provide diligent representation and knowledgeable counsel for judgment enforcement in Illinois, including those involving out-of-state judgments. We welcome you to contact us at 847-307-5942 to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.