UCCJEA : Enforcement of Child Custody Orders

Walters Gilbreath, PLLC

The UCCJEA covers many different things. One issue covered in UCCJEA is what happens when there are interstate disagreements between parents (parents that live in different states). When these issues cover the enforcement of the child custody orders, the UCCJEA can determine how to proceed. In this article, I will discuss what happens with these disputes and how the court can enforce child custody orders even when a party has moved to another state.

Duty to Enforce

In some situations, a Texas court has a duty to enforce a child custody order created by another court. If the other state exercised jurisdiction while conforming to the rules outlined in the UCCJEA, that custody order must be enforced. This is also the case if the order’s factual circumstances align with the UCCJEA.

Note : Even if a Texas court does not have the jurisdiction to change a child custody determination, the Texas court can still issue a temporary order. This can happen to enforce a visitation schedule from another state, or any visitation order that does not specify a schedule. If there is no specific visitation schedule, Texas courts can create a temporary visitation order. But, the court has to provide the petitioner with a time frame by which they need to obtain a schedule order from a court within the proper jurisdiction.

Registered Determinations

A child custody order made by an out of state court can get registered in Texas. This can happen with or without a request for enforcement. If you want to register an order in Texas, there is a form that you will have to fill out. Along with the form, you must present Texas with a certified copy of your Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage with Minor Child or a Final Order from a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). You also need to provide your Marital Settlement for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children if one exists. The determination will become enforceable in Texas from the date of registration; Texas courts cannot modify the determination since only a court with jurisdiction can do that.

A hearing to contest the registration of the determination in Texas must occur within 20 days of the notice. If no one contests the registration of the determination, it will stand in Texas. Anyone named in the determination must be notified of the registration of this determination after it happens.

If a hearing to contest the registration of the determination gets requested, the party contesting the registration has to prove certain things. If they cannot prove certain things, the determination will be enforceable in Texas. The contesting party has to prove that the court that issued the determination did not have jurisdiction. They also have to establish that the order was stayed (put on hold), vacated, or modified by a different court that has jurisdiction. Finally, they have to prove that they had the right to contest the registration, but were not given notice of it.

In a Hurry?: Expedited Enforcement

A petition for expedited enforcement of an order created by another state must get verified. It also must contain an attached copy of the order. The petition has to state:

  • If the court that made the determination identified their jurisdiction basis, and what that basis is.
  • If the order got stayed, vacated, or modified.
  • Whether a new proceeding started that could affect the current one. This might include domestic violence proceedings, termination of parental rights, adoption orders, or protective orders.
  • The current address of the child.
  • If relief is being sought.
  • The state of registration for the order.

After the petition gets filed, there will be an order to appeal. The petitioner must appear before the court, and the court will determine if additional orders need to happen to protect the child and the petitioner. The respondent can appear at this hearing to plead their case. They can show that the determination has not been registered, or that the court that created the order did not have jurisdiction. At the hearing, the court can award custody to the petitioner if this is an appropriate action.

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