Most states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This Act requires one state court to recognize the custody order of another state court. In order for an out of state custody order to be recognized and enforced by another state, it must first be “registered.” This entails the filing of a Petition for Registration, or some other court form, as well as, the filing of two certified copies of the original out of state custody order. Once this action is taken, the filing party must serve the other party with the registration request. The other party is then provided with a certain amount of time to oppose the registration of the out of state custody order. During this time, all defenses to the registration process must be raised, or they are waived. If the opposing party chooses to oppose the registration, a hearing will be scheduled. If there is no opposition to the registration, the out of state custody order will be confirmed, and its terms and provisions will be acknowledged and enforced by the registering state.
Why is this important? Think of cases where parents reside in neighboring states and the child spends the majority of his or her summer vacation months with the partial custodial parent in the other state. If Mother is the primary custodian of the child in Pennsylvania, where the custody action is pending and the original custody order was entered, she may feel uncomfortable sending the child to Father in Virginia, whose court has neither the knowledge of the terms and conditions of the existing order, nor the ability to enforce it. Registering the original Pennsylvania custody order with the local Virginia court, alleviates Mother’s fear and places her in the position of being able to enforce the provisions of the Pennsylvania custody order in the event Father chooses not to return the child.
If it does become necessary to enforce a registered, out of state custody order, the aggrieved party may do so through the filing of an expedited enforcement petition. Under such, a hearing for expedited enforcement must take place on the next judicial day following service of the petition.
Cara A. Boyanowski concentrates her practice in the field of domestic law and wills and estates. As a domestic law practitioner, she represents clients in simple and complex divorce, support, custody, alimony, step-parent adoptions, name change and same-sex divorce and custody matters. She works out of Obermayer’s Harrisburg, PA office and can be reached at 717-234-5315 or at Cara.Boyanowski@obermayer.com.