Enforcement of Orders – Other States & Countries

As the saying goes, it is a small world.  It is common in this country and many others for employees of corporate businesses to be moved from place to place numerous times during their working careers.  Often, the need for financial and other support requires people to move nearer to relatives or friends.  In total, the population of today’s world is much more mobile than at any time in the past.

Among the ancillary issues created by relocation are those related to family court orders, particularly orders concerning children.  For example, orders for visitation become unworkable as the distance between the parents increases, child support payment orders become more difficult to enforce when a parent is employed in another country, and maintaining contact with a child becomes problematic when the parent and child are separated by more than a few time zones.  The worst of all parental nightmares – the kidnapping of a child – sometimes occurs in direct defiance of court orders.

What Remedies Are Available

There are no easy or quick or inexpensive answers to the questions concerning enforcement of orders issued by other jurisdictions or enforcement of Texas orders in other venues.  The potential questions generated by the relocation of parties and children are innumerable and the remedies vary from the ordinary (transfer of jurisdiction from one state to another) to the incredibly complex (involvement of the F.B.I. and/or filing suit in a foreign country under The Hague Convention).

All of the states in the U.S. have recognized the difficulties presented by parents and children moving from one jurisdiction to another and have enacted statutes that assist in giving some uniformity to how the courts handle the ensuing problems.  Further, a considerable number of countries have acknowledged the need for international cooperation in matters related to children and have signed treaties concerning the issues.

General Rule

The action to be taken in a particular case depends upon several factors including what state entered the orders that are currently in effect, does either parent or the child still reside in the state that entered the last order, where are the witnesses who can provide the most important evidence in the case.  Generally speaking, if either parent or the child remains in the state that entered the existing orders, any request to enforce or change those orders must at least be initiated in the court where the orders were entered.  If the facts justify doing so, the judge of that court may decide that another court would be a more appropriate forum and defer to that court to enter orders.

Registration

If neither parent nor the child continues to reside in the state that entered the prior orders, the parent with primary custody of the child may ask that a court in another state enforce or modify court orders.  The Family Code allows a parent to register an order from another state and request Texas courts to enforce or modify that order.

State, Federal & International Laws

Depending upon the issues involved and the facts of the particular case, there are state and federal statutes and international treaties that provide assistance including:

  • Interference with child custody; Texas Penal Code, Section 25.03.
  • Criminal nonsupport; Texas Penal Code, Section 25.05.
  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act; Chapter 152, Texas Family Code.
  • Uniform Interstate Family Support Act; Chapter 159, Texas Family Code.
  • Failure to pay legal child support obligations; U.S.C.S. Title 18, Chapter 11A.
  • International parental kidnapping; U.S.C.S. Title 18, Chapter 55.
  • The Hague Convention.

What Should Be Done

If you have a situation involving orders from another state or country and you now reside in Texas or a situation involving a party who is outside the U.S., you should approach it by taking the following steps:

  • Obtain copies of ALL the court orders that are related to the parties and children.
  • Determine whether there are any pending lawsuits or other proceedings involving the parties or children.  If so, obtain copies of the pleadings and orders in those matters.
  • Determine where all of the parties and children are physically located.
  • Outline in writing your objectives and questions.
  • Contact a competent attorney and make an appointment.

Conclusion

There are a very limited number of lawyers who have experience in dealing with orders from other jurisdictions within the U.S. or mandates from other countries.  For that reason, it is wise to begin by contacting a law firm with board certified attorneys in the area of family law and request to speak with a lawyer who has handled matters involving the issues of your case.