Registering a Foreign Custody Determination in Texas

iStock-1125625723-300x200A custody determination issued in another state or country can be registered in Texas.  To do so, the party must send a letter requesting registration to the Texas court, along with two copies of the determination, one of them certified, a sworn statement that, to the best of the requester’s knowledge and belief, the order has not been modified, and their name and address and the name and address of any parent or person acting as a parent who has been awarded custody or visitation under the order.  Tex. Fam. Code § 152.305(a). The Texas court then files the determination as a foreign judgment. The court must also give notice to the person seeking the registration and any parent or person acting as a parent who was awarded custody or visitation in the determination and provide them with an opportunity to contest the registration. If a person wants to contest the validity of the registered order, they must request a hearing within 20 days of being served the notice.  The court must confirm the registered order unless the person contesting it establishes that the issuing court did not have jurisdiction, that the determination was vacated, stayed, or modified, or that they did not receive required notice in the proceedings before the court that issued the order. Tex. Fam. Code § 152.305.

Mother’s Request for Registration of Custody Determination Denied

A mother recently challenged a court’s denial of her request for registration.  She had filed a “Registration of Child Custody Determination” to register an order from New York. The New York order provided that the parties would share joint custody of the child and that the child would live with the mother.

The father filed a timely objection to the registration. He argued there were proceedings for enforcement pending in New York.  He alleged that the New York court had recessed to let the mother get an attorney and rescheduled on the same day the wife sought to register the order in Texas.  He argued that registering the decree in Texas would make it enforceable and subject to modification in Texas, while the New York court still had and was exercising continuing jurisdiction.

Following a hearing, the trial court granted the father’s objection and filed findings of fact and conclusions of law.  The mother appealed.

Mother Appeals Trial Court’s Denial

There was no challenge to the New York court’s jurisdiction, and the father did not allege he had not been given required notice in the New York proceedings.  The issue before the appeals court revolved around whether the New York order had been vacated, stayed or modified.

The mother argued the trial court erred in sustaining the registration and in justifying its denial of registration of the New York order based on the New York court being in “active proceedings to enforce and/or modify the court order.” The mother failed to provide the appeals court with a copy of the reporter’s record, so the appeals court had to consider the appeal without it.

The mother argued the father did not show the New York order had been vacated, stayed, or modified when she filed for it to be registered.  The appeals court interpreted this argument as an argument that there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s determination, but without the record, the appeals court was not able to evaluate whether the evidence was sufficient.  The appeals court had to presume the missing parts were relevant to the disposition of the appeal.  Additionally, it had to presume the proceedings supported the trial court’s order.  The appeals court therefore could not determine that the trial court abused its discretion because it was unable to analyze whether there was sufficient evidence for the court to exercise its discretion.

Appeals Court Affirms Trial Court

The mother also argued the trial court erred in granting the father’s objection based on the ongoing proceedings in New York. She argued the pending action was an enforcement proceeding and that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction  and  Enforcement  Act allows two states to have concurrent jurisdiction for enforcement of a custody determination.  Tex. Fam. Code §§ 152.306 – .307.  The appeals court noted that the statute’s plain language requires the court to confirm a registered custody determination unless the objecting party establishes that it “has been vacated, stayed, or modified. . .”

The appeals court pointed out the mother’s argument was essentially that the trial court had not made a reasonable decision based on the evidence.  She again could not show that the trial court lacked sufficient evidence without the reporter’s record.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s order.

Registering a Foreign Custody Determination in Texas? Discuss with McClure Law Group Today

Although the trial court denied the mother’s request for registration in this case, the circumstances under which registration can be denied are very limited.  If you need to have an out-of-state custody order registered in Texas, a skilled Texas custody lawyer can help.  Call 214.692.8200 to set up a consultation with McClure Law Group.

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