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Registering a Foreign Custody Order in Virginia

Court OrderWhat happens to a custody order when you move from one state to another with your child(ren)? If you have moved from another state to Virginia and have a child custody order signed by a judge in your former state, you will probably want to register that order for enforcement in Virginia courts.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) provides that one state court will recognize the custody order of another state court if the order has been properly registered. The Commonwealth of Virginia has adopted UCCJEA provisions into the Virginia Code. As set forth in Virginia Code § 20-146.24, a court of the Commonwealth has a duty to enforce a child custody determination of a court of another state if either the “latter court exercised jurisdiction in substantial conformity with the UCCJEA,” or “the determination was made under factual circumstances meeting the jurisdictional standards of [the UCCJEA] and the determination has not been modified… .”

What is the Purpose of Registering a Custody Order?

The purpose of registering a foreign order in Virginia is to allow the party who moved to Virginia to enforce the order in Virginia, as opposed to having to go back and seek relief from the original court that issued the order. Depending on the location where the party moved from, this could save significant travel costs and time. It is important to note, however, that while enforcement of a custody order can be accomplished by registering the order locally, registration of the order does not necessarily mean that the local court has jurisdiction over the child such that it can modify the custody order. The parties would still need to meet certain jurisdictional requirements in order for the court to modify the custody order. For more information on that topic, see the section on Modification of Custody and Visitation in our guide to Child Custody in Virginia.

What is the Process for Registering a Foreign Order?

The procedure for registering a foreign order in Virginia is found in Virginia Code § 20-146.26. The procedure requires the person seeking registration to file (1) a letter or other document to request registration, (2) two copies, including one certified copy, of the order to be registered along with a statement, under penalty of perjury, that to the best of the requestor’s knowledge the order has not been modified and (3) the names and address(es) of the person seeking registration and any parent or other person who has been awarded custody or visitation in the child custody order sought to be registered.

Once this is completed, the person seeking registration shall have notice of the registration served on the other party. The other party will have the opportunity to oppose the registration before the court accepts it. If the other party opposes registration, a hearing will be scheduled. Otherwise, if no objection is made to registering the foreign order, then the Virginia court will accept the registration and the foreign order’s terms and conditions can then be enforced by Virginia courts.

Expedited Enforcement of Registered Orders

Another benefit of registration is that in instances where it may become necessary to enforce a registered foreign order, there is a procedure for an expedited enforcement petition. After service of such a petition, a hearing for expedited enforcement must take place on the next possible judicial day.

If you have a child custody case involving a foreign custody order, be sure to consult with an experienced family law attorney. Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced custody attorneys across offices in Fairfax, Arlington, Ashburn, Manassas and Fredericksburg, representing clients across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.