By Jordan M. Gregro

Yes.  An out-of-state custody order is referred to as a “foreign custody order” and is enforceable in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) governs the enforcement of out-of-state custody orders.  Specifically, the UCCJEA requires Pennsylvania courts to “recognize and enforce a child custody determination of a court of another state” if that court properly exercised jurisdiction over the child custody case.  The law further grants Pennsylvania courts the power to use “any remedy available under [Pennsylvania law] to enforce” an out-of-state custody order.

Before an out-of-state custody order can be enforced in Pennsylvania, however, the order must be registered in the Pennsylvania court system. To do so, a certified copy of the order must be submitted to the court and notice of the registration must be given to the other side.  The other side may contest the registration within twenty (20) days after service of the notice.  If the other side fails to timely contest the registration, then the registration is confirmed in Pennsylvania.

Importantly, registration of an out-of-state custody order does not confer jurisdiction over the child custody case to Pennsylvania courts nor does it allow Pennsylvania courts to modify the order sought to be enforced; it simply gives the Pennsylvania court and other authorities the power to enforce the out-of-state order. A different set of rules dictate whether jurisdiction can be transferred to Pennsylvania. 

Enforcement of an out-of-state custody order, once registered, may not always be easy. For instance, enforcement may require cooperation and coordination with local law enforcement and will require the party seeking to enforce the order to know the location of the child who is the subject of the order as well as the area where the order needs to be enforced.  Because of the many intricacies associated with the registration and enforcement of an out-of-state custody order, it is best to hire an experienced and local family law attorney to assist in the process.

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Jordan M. Gregro is an associate at Shemtob, Draganosky, Taylor.  Recently, she successfully registered and enforced an out-of-state custody order from Puerto Rico in the Philadelphia area.  Ms. Gregro coordinated with local law enforcement to return a child to his father in Puerto Rico in accordance with the out-of-state custody order. The father was reunited with his son after eight (8) long months of searching for the child in the Philadelphia area.   

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