Academic journal article Texas International Law Journal

Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments and Child Support Obligations in United States and Canadian Courts

Academic journal article Texas International Law Journal

Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments and Child Support Obligations in United States and Canadian Courts

Article excerpt


The United States and Canada have a friendly and mutually rewarding relationship. The volume of trade in goods and services between the two countries is greater than that between any other two nations.1 Business flourishes in a climate that permits the quick and efficient resolution of disputes. Arbitration has become the preferred method of resolving international commercial disputes between contracting parties.2 The United States and Canada are signatories of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards,3 which requires the enforcement of agreements to arbitrate4 and the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards.5 The United States, however, is not a party to any convention that requires recognition and enforcement of judgments. In the absence of an arbitration agreement, therefore, efficient dispute settlement between United States and Canadian parties may depend upon the extent to which judgments in one country are recognized and enforced in the other.

Part II discusses recognition and enforcement of one another's judgments by United States and Canadian courts. The discussion includes the standards for issuing antisuit injunctions that purport to prevent Canadians from suing in the United States and Americans from suing in Canada. Part III examines enforcement of child support obligations, both interstate and international, with emphasis on the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).6 The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws promulgated the UIFSA in 1992 and revised it in 1996.7 The UIFSA has been adopted by all states in the United States.8

This article suggests steps that both the United States and Canada should take to further facilitate recognition and enforcement of one another's judgments. In the course of the discussion, I note some lessons that United States courts might profitably learn from the Supreme Court of Canada regarding recognition of the jurisdictional bases for foreign judgments and issuance of antisuit injunctions.


A United States Recognition of the Judgments of Other Countries

The Full Faith and Credit clause of the United States Constitution9 does not apply to judgments of other countries.10 The law of each state controls recognition of foreign judgments in that state.11 Federal courts in diversity12 and alienage13 cases concerning recognition of foreign judgments apply the rules of the state in which they sit14 but apply federal law in federal question cases.15

With exceptions in only a few states,16 United States courts recognize and enforce foreign money judgments. As of January 1, 1999, twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have adopted the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act.17 With only a few exceptions to protect due process rights18 and otherwise assure the fairness of the proceedings,19 the Act provides that "any foreign judgment that is final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered"20 is "conclusive between the parties to the extent that it grants or denies recovery of a sum of money."21 There is a "public policy" exception,22 but courts have seldom used it.23 There is no reciprocity requirement in the Act,24 but six states have added one to their versions.25 The Colorado reciprocity provision in effect bars recognition of foreign judgments because it limits recognition to judgments of a country that has joined the United States in a judgment-recognition treaty.26 There is no such country.

The states that have not enacted the Uniform Act recognize and enforce foreign money-judgments in much the same generous manner as the enacting states.27 Section 481 of the Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law states:

Except as provided in (sec) 482,28 a final judgment of a court of a foreign state granting or denying recovery of a sum of money, establishing or confirming the status of a person, or determining interests in property, is conclusive between the parties, and is entitled to recognition in courts in the United States. …

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