Enforcing Out-of-State Child Custody Orders

Child custody is a looming issue in any divorce petition unless both parents are in complete agreement about division of responsibility and parenting time. If custody is only gained after a long, drawn out court battle, making sure the terms of the custody order are properly followed becomes a high priority. Adhering to the custody order is certainly easier when parents and their children live in proximity to each other, but if one parent moves to another state for work or life reasons, the legalities of ensuring compliance become a bit more complicated. As reported in Naples Daily News, a mother living in Alabama faces an even more daunting child custody enforcement situation after her husband fled to Mexico with her two children to avoid complying with a court order granting her full custody. While fleeing to another country to circumvent a court’s authority is somewhat extreme and fairly uncommon, anytime a parent brings a custody order to a new jurisdiction for enforcement, there are additional steps to follow before the new court has authority to take over this issue.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

Many states have adopted this law in order to facilitate and promote the best interests of the child, avoid relitigating the same issues, and discourage child abductions. This law treats child custody decrees issued by other states and countries as if they were issued by a Florida court. This allows a parent to relocate to another state and still have the ability to enforce the original custody order without needing to file a brand new petition or return to the original court for additional custody orders. Further, any order issued by a Florida judge related to the enforcement of an out-of-state custody order will bind all the parties who received notice of the legal action and had an opportunity to appear, which means your spouse will have to abide by a Florida court’s decision even if he/she has never visited this state.

Accessing Florida Courts

Once a parent moves to Florida, the original custody order must be registered with Florida courts before they will have the authority to hear a case. It is not necessary that the parent registering the custody order seek to enforce it at the same time. The purpose of registration is to transfer jurisdiction, but it is advisable to register the custody order as soon as practicable to avoid any delay if enforcement is necessary at a later date.

In addition to transferring jurisdiction, registering a custody order gives the other parent an opportunity to challenge its validity under one of the following grounds:

  • the court that issued the order did not have jurisdiction;
  • the order has been vacated, modified, or stayed since originally issued; or
  • the person did not receive proper notice of the registration before the new court.

The parent has 20 days from date of notice to challenge the registration, and if it is not disputed within this time frame, the transfer of jurisdiction is complete and cannot be objected to any longer.

Contact a Family Law Attorney

The willingness of each parent to follow the terms of a child custody order is integral to the well being of the child, but if one parent decides to step beyond what is permitted, the other must quickly and vigorously work to enforce the court’s finding to preserve the full extent of his/her parental rights. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. understands that each family is unique and will work to resolve opposition over custody issues. Contact us to schedule a confidential appointment.

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