Getting Your Custody Order Recognized & Enforced in the U.S

The Hague Convention is not an exclusive remedy. This means that parents may use other laws to seek return of, or access to, a child that is in the United States. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), is a uniform state law which has been enacted in some form in 49 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the District of Columbia. The UCCJEA requires state courts to enforce child custody and visitation determinations made in a foreign country where the foreign court substantially conformed with the UCCJEA’s jurisdictional standards, as long as the parties had notice and opportunity to be heard. Only limited defenses apply. The act provides expedited enforcement proceduresfor enforcement, and procedures to register custody and visitation determinations in advance of enforcement. The UCCJEA also regulates when a court in the United States has jurisdiction to make or modify a custody order, and when to defer to courts in other states or countries.

Citations to each U.S. state’s version of the UCCJEA laws can be found here.

More Information about the UCCJEA

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

For more information about the UCCJEA, OJJDP Bulletin (2001):  click here.

Also see For AttorneysLegal Information

Comparison of Hague Convention and UCCJEA Enforcement Remedies

When you have a choice between using the Hague Convention (if you are in a country that is a treaty partner of the United States), or filing an action under the UCCJEA to enforce a foreign custody/access order, you and your attorney will decide the best strategy to achieve your objectives.  (It may be possible to request both remedies in the alternative.) The following is a list of comparisons between the Hague Abduction Convention and the UCCJEA. This is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should always discuss your case with your attorney before taking any actions. Your attorney will advise you about your state’s law, which may differ from the uniform act. 

Abduction cases where no court order exists

  • You do not need a custody order to seek return under the Hague Convention. 
  • You need a custody or visitation order in order to use the UCCJEA’s expedited enforcement procedures. 

Speed

  • The Hague Convention requires ‘return forthwith’ and envisions expedited proceedings.  Courts can be asked to explain delays after six weeks.  However, no specific time frame is set for holding the hearing.
  • UCCJEA’s enforcement is intended to be very fast. The uniform act calls for ‘next day’ enforcement. 

Age

  • The Hague Convention applies to children until age 16. 
  • The UCCJEA applies to children until age 18.

Court

  • Hague Convention return cases can be brought in federal or state court.  Access cases are brought in state court.
  • UCCJEA enforcement actions can only be brought in state court in a state which has enacted some form of the UCCJEA.

Access cases

  • Hague Convention Article 21 remedy does not specifically include returning a child to another country for visits, though the court may decide to do so.
  • UCCJEA requires enforcement of foreign orders according to their terms, which would include visits in another country.

Defenses

  • The Hague Convention provides exceptions to the return obligation.  The court has discretion to order return even when an exception is established.
  •  UCCJEA provides very limited defenses to enforcement