Register court orders when you move out of state.
Don’t forget to register your child custody and child support orders when you move out of state. Because family law is based on state law, your custody order or support order is not automatically recognized by the other 49 states in the union. If your custody and support orders are actually contained within your Final Judgment of Divorce, then be sure to register your divorce judgment when you leave the state too.
To register a custody order, a support order, or a divorce judgment, you usually start by contacting the court that entered the order. Ask for a “certified” copy or an “exemplified” copy of the order. This will usually cost you anywhere from $2 to $10. A certified copy usually has a raised seal of the court on it, and it may have an original signature from the court clerk or some other court official.
Then, you must take that court order or judgment and file it in the new state to which you are moving. If may be as easy as marching into the county courthouse in your new location, presenting the court clerk with the certified copy of the order from your old location and then filing it with the clerk. Other states may require a formal registration procedure through a county records office or through a central registry maintained at the state capital. You will likely be charged a filing fee or a registration fee in each case.
Once your out-of-state order (sometimes called “foreign order”) is registered, you should receive a local docket number, file number or registration number in the state to which you have moved.
Why is this all so important? Let’s say that you were granted custody of your children in New York. You have been living in New York for the last five years with the children while your ex has been living in Ohio. With your ex-spouse’s permission, you are now relocating with the children to California. Nothing stops your ex-spouse from filing a petition in the California courts claiming that he should have custody — unless you’ve filed and registered your New York Court order in California. Once that New York order is registered in California, it essentially becomes a California court order. This enables you to argue to the California court that you already have custody according to the current order in effect. (Otherwise, if there is no prior order on file, when you ex-spouse files his petition in California, it will appear as if it’s the first time either one of you have addressed the question of custody).
A few other principles you should know: Every state in the United States is obligated, under the “full faith and credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution to recognize the court orders of other state courts. They must give full faith and credit to those orders.Thus the registration process makes sense. Plus, there are several uniform statutes in effect. These include the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). Under UCCJEA and UIFSA, a court is usually obligated to defer jurisdiction to the court that first took jurisdiction over a case. Therefore, if New York entered the original court order, and your ex moved to California while you remained in New York with the children, he would be hard-pressed to get a court in that state to enter a custody order — or to even look at the case. Under the “exclusive continuing jurisdiction” provisions of the uniform laws, New York would have the exclusive right to deal with custody issues and that right would continue as long as one of you remained in New York.
This may all seem confusing, and you may wish to hire a lawyer if you get into a jurisdiction tangle. But if you do nothing else, remember to register your court orders in your new state once you move out of your old state.