The Process of Enforcing a Foreign Custody Order in California.

Understanding the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

When a parent or guardian with a child custody order from a foreign country seeks to enforce that order in California, the process is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA has been adopted by all 50 states, including California, to provide a standardized legal framework for the enforcement of child custody orders across state and national borders.

Initiating the Enforcement Process

To enforce a foreign custody order in California, the individual seeking enforcement must first register the order with a California court. This involves submitting a request to the appropriate California family court, along with certified copies of the custody order and any modifications thereof. The petition must be accompanied by a sworn statement asserting that the order is currently in effect and has not been modified.

Notification and Opportunity to Contest

Once the foreign custody order is registered, the other parent must be notified. They have an opportunity to contest the registration if they believe it is invalid or unenforceable. This contest must be based on jurisdictional grounds, such as improper service of process in the original foreign proceedings, or substantive grounds such as fraud or violation of human rights principles.

Court Hearing and Evaluation

If a contest to the registration is filed, a hearing will be scheduled. During this hearing, the California court will evaluate whether the foreign custody order should be recognized and enforced. The court will consider factors such as whether the issuing foreign jurisdiction observed basic due process principles and whether enforcing the order would violate any fundamental principles of human rights.

Enforcement of Recognized Orders

If no contest is filed or if the court dismisses any objections, the foreign custody order is confirmed and can be enforced as if it were a domestic California order. This means that local law enforcement can be called upon to ensure compliance with its terms.

Historical Reference: The Hague Convention

An example of international cooperation in child custody enforcement can be seen in The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This treaty provides procedures for promptly returning children wrongfully removed from their home country. While The Hague Convention deals primarily with abduction cases, it illustrates how international law aims to protect children's welfare across borders.


Enforcing a foreign custody order in California requires careful navigation of both international law and state statutes under the UCCJEA. While there are mechanisms in place to facilitate enforcement, those seeking to enforce such orders should prepare for potential challenges related to jurisdiction and international legal principles.