Can a Florida court enforce a foreign custody order?

Understanding the Enforcement of Foreign Custody Orders in Florida

In an increasingly global society, family law issues often cross international borders, leading to complex legal questions about the enforcement of custody orders from one jurisdiction in another. In Florida, as in other states, foreign custody orders can be recognized and enforced, but this is subject to certain legal standards and processes.

Florida's Approach to International Custody Orders

The state of Florida has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which sets forth the criteria for the acceptance and enforcement of out-of-state and foreign custody orders. Under the UCCJEA, a foreign custody order can generally be enforced if it is issued by a court with appropriate jurisdiction and meets the standards for recognition set out under Florida law.

For example, if a Canadian court grants custody to a parent and the other parent relocates to Florida, the Canadian order would need to be recognized by a Florida court to be enforceable there. This typically involves registering the foreign order with the Florida courts, submitting a certified copy of the order, and providing notice to the other party.

Recognition of Foreign Orders: Conditions and Limitations

There are several conditions that must be met for a foreign custody order to be recognized in Florida:

Even when these conditions are satisfied, there may still be limitations. For instance, if circumstances have significantly changed since the issuance of the foreign order or if enforcing the order would pose a serious risk of harm to the child, a Florida court may refuse enforcement.

Comity as a Legal Principle

The principle of comity plays an essential role in determining whether a Florida court will enforce a foreign custody order. Comity refers to legal reciprocity—the idea that one jurisdiction will extend certain courtesies to another, including honoring its judicial decisions. However, comity is not an obligation; it is practiced at the discretion of the Florida courts based on fairness and respect for international legal proceedings.

Historical Precedents and Notable Cases

An illustrative case is Dalton v. Dalton, which saw Florida courts upholding an English custody order after determining that England had proper jurisdiction and that both parties had participated adequately in the proceedings. This case exemplifies how foreign orders that meet jurisdictional and procedural requirements can be enforced within Florida's legal system.


In conclusion, while a Florida court can enforce a foreign custody order, it is contingent upon several factors including compliance with UCCJEA standards, proper jurisdiction, due process, as well as consideration of any substantial change in circumstances or potential harm to the child. Parties seeking enforcement of foreign custody orders should consult with knowledgeable family law attorneys to navigate these complex international legal waters.