Registering an Out-of-State Custody Order in California

Oct 13, 2017


We have had a number of clients come to the firm when something happens with their child’s other parent is not playing by the rules.  They realize that they need to enforce a custody order that was made before they moved to California.  Although these situations sometimes have a great deal of urgency to them, the good news is that a California court can enforce an out-of-state custody order provided that you “register” the out-of-state order here in California.


What is Registration of an Out-of-State Custody Order in California?

Registering an out-of-state custody order in California means following the process necessary to have a California family court enforce a child custody order obtained from another state.  By registering the order in California, you can bring the authority of the California court to bear in making sure that a custody order is followed.  The process is not too difficult.  However, it does require you to complete several California legal forms and provide a certified copy of the out-of-state court order.

We often recommend to our clients who have moved to California that they register the out-of-state custody order in California.  You never know when you need to enforce the order, so it is better to be prepared ahead of time.

What is the Registration Process?

The Required Paperwork

The first order of business is to decide if you would like to seek competent legal counsel in California experienced in jurisdictional issues.  A beginning step in the process if you do not hire an attorney, is to fill out and file certain documents with the applicable California court.

The first document you need to complete is the Registration of Out-of-State Custody Order, Form FL-580.  The form is not mandatory; you could put all of the same information in a legal pleading, but it asks for all of the legally necessary information.  Using the form will ensure that you have included all the information that the law requires.  In addition, some court clerks are familiar with the FL-580, which may make the processing of the registration a little easier.

The second document you need to complete is the Declaration Under UCCJEA, Form FL-105.  The form asks for your child or children’s addresses for the last five years, and asks you to identify any other cases related to your child custody matter.  In case you were wondering, UCCJEA stands for the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is a model law that was adopted by California.  The goal of the UCCJEA was to avoid jurisdictional conflict between states and promote cooperation between states on child custody matters.

Finally, you need to attach two copies of the child custody order from the other state, one of which must be certified.  You can obtain a certified copy by contacting the clerk of the court where the order was originally made.  You also must declare that the order has not been modified to the best of your knowledge.


Giving Notice

As part of the FL-580 form, you should provide contact information of the respondent (the parent not asking for the registration and who is violating the custody order).  Once the court receives the registration filing, the court will send the notice of the registration to the other parent for you, along with information about that parent’s right to contest the Registration.

How Long Does the Other Parent Have to Respond?

The other parent has 20 days from the time of being served to contest the Registration.  To contest the Registration, the other parent needs to show that the out-of-state court issuing the custody order lacked jurisdiction, the order has been dismissed or modified, or proper notice was not given.

Can Registration be a Springboard to Modifying Custody?

The California law expressly states that a California court “shall recognize and enforce, but may not modify [except if the California court has jurisdiction to modify], a registered child custody determination of a court of another state.” California Family Code sec. 3446(b).

That language is helpful if you want to use registration as a springboard for modification of a custody order.  The default position in the law is that a California court typically cannot modify an out-of-state custody order.

However, if you have grounds to argue that the California court should also have jurisdiction to modify the order, then that argument can be raised as part of the registration papers.

This is a pivotal time where an Experienced California family law attorney can help initiate the process to transfer jurisdiction.

In addition, the California family law has some emergency provisions allowing the court to make decisions with regard to custody if the child is in danger by being with the other parent.  In fact, a conference between the out-of-state court that originally signed the custody order and the California court is contemplated in these emergency provisions.

An example of using a registration action as a springboard for a modification of a custody order is the case of In Re: Janette H., from the California Court of Appeal. In that case, a California couple had a child, Janette.  The mother had mental health issues, and the father moved to Virginia and obtained a Virginia custody order giving him custody.  The father later died, and the custody order allowed for the father’s new companion to have visitation rights to Janette.  The mother, who still lived in California, however, registered the Virginia custody order in California and, at the same time, moved to modify the custody order because she believed that her late husband’s companion should not have visitation.  Although the mother was ultimately unsuccessful in modifying the out-of-state order, it clearly shows an ability to register and move to modify at the same time.

In sum, in a situation where you live in one state and the other parent lives in the state where the original custody order was signed, it is a good idea to register the out-of-state custody order where you now live.  In the event there are any issues with the other parent not following the terms of the custody order, you can ensure that a court in your state will enforce the order.

© Alphonse F. Provinziano, Esq.