Enforceability of Foreign Orders

It is common for parties in a family law case to move towns, or even states after the difficult period surrounding a divorce. The goal of any resolution to a family law case, is to provide a means of enforcing an agreement or order no matter where the parties may be in relation to where the original case took place. However, if you are the party seeking to enforce an order entered by the court of another state, there is a process that must be followed in North Carolina to register your previous order, allowing the courts here to help enforce your rights under the order.

Foreign Orders

North Carolina refers to this process as registering a foreign order. A foreign order simply means a decision made by a court in another state, which ordinarily, North Carolina courts would not have the jurisdiction to enforce. However, legislatures across the country have recognized the need to allow states to exert the power to enforce decisions made in other states, especially when it comes to issues such as support obligations and custody decisions. North Carolina has recognized the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which sets out a process by which parties can register orders made in a different state than the one they intend to reside.

If you are thinking about moving from the state that currently has jurisdiction over your court order, to North Carolina, it is important that you plan to register your order before you move, or soon after. Once you move away from the state in which your order was entered, it presents jurisdictional problems for that state to make rulings in your case, and it is impossible for another state to make rulings until the order is registered in the new state. For example, if you have a child custody order created and entered in South Carolina, and you move with your child to North Carolina without registering the South Carolina order, it becomes difficult for any court to make decisions in your case. The South Carolina court lacks the personal jurisdiction over the parties since they now live in North Carolina, while the North Carolina Court does not have the authority to rule on the unregistered South Caroline order.

Enforcement of a Foreign Order

However, if you register your foreign order in the state you now live, it is enforceable in the same way as it was in the state it was originally entered. This means if you move to North Carolina and register a South Carolina order, the North Carolina Court will enforce the order in the same way a South Carolina would. Registering the order in North Carolina will allow the enforcing party to overcome the jurisdictional issues now faced by the former state by giving North Carolina, the state in which the party now lives, authority over the foreign order. For example, if a New York court enters an order forcing a parent to pay child support until the age of majority, which in New York is 21, the North Carolina court will enforce that order, if properly registered in North Carolina, even though the age of majority is 18 in this state. If that same order was originally entered in North Carolina, the parent would have only paid child support until 18, but since the North Carolina court applies the law of the original state, it will uphold any provision in the order that would be enforceable in the original state.

Registering Foreign Orders in North Carolina

If you are moving to North Carolina, and are looking to enforce an order that was originally entered in another state, it is important that you follow the statutorily set guidelines for registering a foreign order. If you have questions, or need assistance filing a motion to register a foreign order, the attorneys at Arnold & Smith can help ensure your rights are protected under North Carolina law. The family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are experienced in registering and enforcing foreign orders in North Carolina courts.

Contesting Registration of Foreign Orders in North Carolina

If you are not the party seeking to register a foreign order in North Carolina, you may wish to contest this registration. However, North Carolina law provides only a few specific instances where a person can validly contest the registration of a foreign order in North Carolina. Our experienced family law attorneys are well versed in the defenses to registration of a foreign order and are able to evaluate your situation to determine if any of the defenses apply in your case.

Modifying a Foreign Order

If your foreign order is registered in North Carolina, there are very specific circumstances under which an order can be modified by the North Carolina courts. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act sets forth specific requirements that must be met before North Carolina can modify the child support order from another state. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) also allows for North Carolina to modify child custody determinations, but like the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, these circumstances are very specific and very limited.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you have questions about a foreign order, contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.