The unique international demographic of California means that we are constantly engaging with families that have roots, familial ties, or relationships in foreign countries. We work with parents who have child custody orders from a foreign country and now seek to enforce such foreign custody orders in California. This primarily happens when the child is living in California, enabling the Courts and administrative institutions in the state to enforce the custody order.
As discussed at length in our previous posts, Courts in California recognize and enforce orders of foreign sister Courts when they have legitimate reasons and authority to issue orders. Please see Foreign custody orders in California and Enforcement of foreign child custody orders in California. However, California courts can indeed modify an existing child custody order from a foreign sister Court when necessary in the best interests of the child.
In a recent case where we were representing a parent, we sought the enforcement of a foreign child custody order in California, as the child resided in California with the other parent. At the time we initiated the proceedings in California, our client and the child had not seen each other for many years and as a result the initial meeting could potentially have tremendous ramifications. It was thus important to modify the child custody order to allow the involvement of experts such as mental health professionals to support the family through a reintegration process. Consequently, we requested and were able to obtain a modification of the foreign child custody order to allow for a Child Custody Evaluation. We have explained this process in detail in our previous blog post titled Child Custody Evaluation in California.
To file for a modification of a foreign child-custody order, you are generally required to fill out a local Court form detailing the foreign custody order and stating a substantial change of circumstances that requires the modification. In the above-mentioned case, the long period of time where a parent and the child had no contact with each other was a special circumstance of the “Refuse and Resist” paradigm, previously known as “Parental Alienation”. In these circumstances, we had to seek a modification of the existing foreign child custody order before the order could be enforced in California.
It is also important that Courts in California have the authority to modify the foreign child custody order. For instance, in this case, the child had been living with the other parent in California for more than six (6) months, has been going to school in California, and had established permanent roots to allow California to exercise its authority to modify the order and permit a Child Custody Evaluation. Further, the child and the child’s parents did not reside in the other country that issued the foreign child custody order.
A request for modification of a foreign custody order must thus be accompanied by a certified copy of the foreign order and a translation of the foreign child custody order if not in English. The request must also be supported by a declaration under the UCCJEA to notify the court where the child has lived in the last five (5) years. The Court in California will decide and issue an order that modifies or enforces the existing foreign child custody order.
This opinion is not legal advice and may not apply to your specific situation. Please do not attempt to represent yourself based on this opinion. If you would like to discuss your matter, please reach out to us at [email protected] and [email protected]