Court Does Not Have Jurisdiction to Modify Foreign Order – Even to Enforce It

An American woman lived in France with her husband and son for an extended period of time.

When the woman divorced her husband in France, she was awarded custody of their son, but she was enjoined from taking him out of France for an extended period of time such as would interfere with his father’s visitation.

Later, the mother moved with the boy to California.

The father brought suit to enforce the French order in a California court.

At trial, the court held that, if the mother did not timely return the boy to France, custody of the boy would be transferred to the father.

The mother appealed, arguing that the trial court’s order, which conditionally modified custody, violated the original custody order of the French court. Since the French court had continuing exclusive jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, the California court did not have jurisdiction or authority to modify the French custody order by ordering that the boy be returned to his father’s custody in France.

On appeal, the court reversed, agreeing with the mother. The court then ordered that the boy be returned back to his mother’s custody in California.

There was no report as to whether the father had taken any enforcement action in France, which retained jurisdiction over the boy.

Read more in this Metropolitan-News Enterprise article: C.A.: Courts May Not Modify Foreign Child Custody Order.