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How do I fight a foreign default judgement?

Mount Juliet, TN |

When I was moving from North Carolina 4 years ago, an old credit card sued me. This all happened during the stressful move. So a default judgement was entered against me because I was unable to attend the NC hearing. Now they want to move it to Tennessee. We have called the lawyers on their side. For a $2000 debt, they want $9000. We tried to negotiate an offer, but they would not budge below $6000. Now they are continuing with the court date. I do not know what to do. I can't pay them $500 for 12 months like they want me to. I looked into bankruptcy, but my husband makes too much and I would have to do chapter 13. What is going to happen when I show up at the hearing? I'm very nervous and scared about it. I don't konw what to do.

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Attorney answers 4


Generally speaking, the judgments of a particular state in a civil matter are subject to the Full Faith & Credit provision of the United States Constitution; hence a judgment, duly entered of record in a sister state may be registered as a “foreign” judgment in another sister state for collection action.

I do not know any basis upon which you can collaterally attack the judgment in your state of Tennessee, but you could attempt to attack the judgment in North Carolina, seeking to vacate it. Frankly, I do not think your chances are very good.


The most common way to attack a foreign judgment is to look at whether the court that entered the judgment had jurisdiction, or authority to rule on the case. Based on your statement of the facts, if you lived in NC when the court case was filed, or made the debts while you lived in NC, then NC should have jurisdiction.

While I appreciate your financial situation makes this situation intolerable, this is an example of the "you snooze, you lose" tenant of our legal system.

BTW, what is protected from a judgment creditor varies widely from state to state, so I am posting a description of property that is protected (called exemptions) for all 50 states for you to review.

Hope this perspective helps!


If the NC court had jurisdiction and you were served, then the judgment stands. You can attack it if it expired in NC (doubt it) or it is too old to bring to TN (again doubt it). This case serves to bring the judgment to TN, then the creditor has to sue to collect on it according to the collection laws of TN.

Mr. Goldstein is a Virginia-licensed attorney only. The information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not in any way constitute legal representation. Contacting Mitchell Goldstein or the Goldstein Law Group does not constitute legal representation, nor is any information you provide protected by attorney-client privilege until otherwise advised.


The UEFJA has a handful of exceptions that could potentially help you. Otherwise you're in a tough spot because Tennessee is one of the worst states to be a debtor in.

A state may not enforce a foreign judgment in the following cases:

The judgment was not rendered by an impartial tribunals under procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law;
The foreign court did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant;
The foreign court did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter;
The defendant did not receive notice of the proceedings in sufficient time to enable him to defend;
The judgment was obtained by fraud;
The judgment is repugnant to the public policy of the state where enforcement is sought;
The judgment conflicts with another final and conclusive judgment;
The proceeding in the foreign court was contrary to an agreement between the parties under which the dispute was to be settled;
In the case of jurisdiction based only on personal service, the foreign court was an inconvenient forum for the trial; or
The judgment seeks to enforce the revenue and taxation laws of a foreign jurisdiction.

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