Rule 55 of the Puerto Rico Rules of Civil Procedure defines the exequatur procedure as a “procedure for the legal recognition and validation and recognition of a foreign judgment by the courts of the venue in which it is enforcement is sought.” In other words, it is the mechanism that allows the validation in our jurisdiction of judgments not issued in Puerto Rico.

Judgments entered in foreign countries, as well as those rendered in any United States of America jurisdiction, must be validated through exequatur. This procedure does not allow discussing or addressing the judgement sought to be validated. It only allows for the recognition of a judgment entered by a court outside Puerto Rico.

Exequatur procedure

What are the requirements for an exequatur?

To be valid in Puerto Rico, a judgment issued in a United States jurisdiction must meet the following requirements:

  • It must be issued by a court with personal and subject-matter jurisdiction.
  • The issuing court must have observed due process of law.
  • It cannot be obtained through fraud.

Judgments issued in foreign courts must meet these same requirements as well as the following:

  • The system under which the judgment was rendered must be known for its impartiality and lack of prejudice against foreigners.
  • The system is not contrary to public policy.
  • The judgment cannot be repugnant to the basic principles of justice.
What are some of the criteria that must be considered before filing a petition for exequatur?
  1. When the procedure involves the validation of an adoption judgment or a name change judgment, you must make sure that the judgment rendered by the foreign court or by any United States jurisdiction orders the name change and its entry in the Vital Statistics Registry. If the judgment does not contain that determination, you must request the pertinent amendments to such ends in the jurisdiction where the judgment was issued before applying for exequatur in Puerto Rico.
  2. Applications for exequatur may be filed pro se or through counsel. The attorney representing you must be admitted to practice by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. However, if your attorney is authorized to practice in any United States jurisdiction, your attorney may apply for pro hac vice admission with the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. Please refer to Puerto Rico Supreme Court Rule 12 to learn to apply.
  3. Self-represented litigants may request service by email of all notices related to the exequatur by sending the Motion by Pro Se Litigant for Service by Email (OAT 1844) to the office of the clerk of the court where your case is pending.
What are the steps to apply for exequatur in Puerto Rico courts?

Step 1: File an action or ex parte petition
The interested party has two options:

  • To bring an action against the other persons affected by the judgment rendered by another jurisdiction whose validation and recognition is sought.
  • File an ex parte petition signed under oath by all persons affected by the judgment rendered by another jurisdiction whose validation and recognition is sought.

Self-represented litigants may file without an attorney. To access a sample ex parte petition for exequatur or a sample action for exequatur in an adoption case, click on the following links: Action for Validation and Recognition of Adoption Judgment Rendered by a Court of the United States of America (Exequatur) (OAT 1847); Petition for Validation and Recognition of Adoption Judgment Rendered by a Court of the United States of America (Exequatur) (OAT 1846).

As for the oath that must accompany the application, it may be sworn before a county clerk, provided that their authority to administer such oaths and affirmations in that jurisdiction is included as a certification.

Step 2: Choose the court in which the action or petition will be filed
The action must be filed in the court of the place where the validation of the judgment will be enforced. For example:

  • If the validation sought involves an adoption in another jurisdiction of a child born in Puerto Rico, the court that will pass on this action or petition must be the court of the municipality where the adopted child was born.
  • If the validation sought involves a divorce granted in another jurisdiction that will result in the liquidation of the conjugal partnership, the competent court will be the court of the municipality where the assets are located.

To found out in which court the action or petition must be filed, click on the Directory of the Judiciary, which is organized by judicial regions.

Step 3: Payment of fees
This action or petition must be accompanied by the payment of a fee in the amount of $90.00 in Internal Revenue Stamps. If you have an attorney, your attorney may make the payment through the Unified Case Management and Administration System (SUMAC). If you represent yourself, you must contact Colecturía Digital Collection at (787) 354-9469 or send an email to servicioalcliente@colecturiadigital.com to buy the corresponding stamps.

Step 4: Documents that must be attached to the action or petition
The action or petition must be accompanied by the following documents:

  • a certified, legible, and complete copy of the judgment whose validation and recognition is sought.
  • a true and exact Spanish translation of the judgment, if not originally drafted in Spanish or English. (Judgment drafted in English may be filed.)

Any additional documents that must be filed will depend on the action or petition filed in the Puerto Rico court. Below are the most common examples:

  • Divorce: Marriage certificate
  • Adoption: Birth certificate of the child; Marriage certificate if the adopting parents are spouses; Documents supporting each of the exequatur requirements set forth in the second question in this webpage; county clerk certification, if applicable
  • Name change: Birth certificate; Criminal record certificate from Puerto Rico and from the jurisdiction where the petitioner lives; Work certificate; Copy of the documents obtained under the name they intend to change

Step 5: Notice
The action or ex parte petition must be served on the following persons:

  • All persons affected by the judgment whose validation and recognition is sought.
  • The Family Advocate (Department of Justice of Puerto Rico), in all cases in which the interests of the children or incompetent persons could be affected.
  • The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (Department of Justice of Puerto Rico), in all cases seeking validation of judgments related to judicial claims for purposes of their subsequent entry in the Registry of Property.
  • The Secretary of Justice of Puerto Rico, in all cases that, in the opinion of the Puerto Rico court, involve a matter of great public interest that warrants the appearance of the Secretary on behalf of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

For more information about the Department of Justice, follow this link: http://www.justicia.pr.gov/.

If any of the above live in Puerto Rico, they may be served through the Office of the Marshal of the court where the action or petition is pending with the corresponding fees ($30.00 in Internal Revenue Stamps) and mileage expenses ($3.00 per mile; you must first contact the Office of the Marshal to calculate the number of miles). To find out how to pay the fees, refer to step 3.

Step 6: Request for hearing by videoconference

Should a hearing be necessary for this procedure, the interested party may request in the action or ex parte petition that the hearing be conducted by videoconference. It is in the discretion of the court to grant such request.

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