How to Enforce a Child Custody Order from Another State in California

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California family law allows for enforcement of child custody orders obtained from other states. Proper procedures set out in the California Family Code must be followed, however, and the correct paperwork filed for a California judge to honor and enforce an out-of-state custody order. The California parent must complete a pair of state legal forms and submit copies of the court order from the other state.

Complete Forms FL-580, Registration of Out-of-State Custody Order, and FL-585, Request for Hearing Regarding Registration of Out-of-State Custody Decree. These forms are available at the official California Courts website (see Resources).

Call the courthouse where your custody order was issued and ask the clerk how to obtain a true certified copy of the order. A certified copy usually is stamped and has a seal or imprint. Expect to pay a fee for the certified copy.

If you have more than one custody order, you will file the most recent one in the California court. If you want the California judge to see the older custody orders, you may also file those in the California court.

Prepare a Petition to Enforce a Sister-State Custody Order pursuant to California Family Code Section 3448. This petition is written on pleading paper (the format required by courts for filing legal documents); there is no California court form to fill out. Look for a sample petition in a California family law practice guide in your local law library. Use the sample as a guide to write your own petition with facts specific to your situation.

Obtain the other parent's mailing address, residence address and business address for ease of service.

Attach the certified copy of the out-of-state custody order to your FL-580. Then attach your completed petition on pleading paper. Take three or four copies of the packet to your county's superior court for filing.


  • Pursuant to California Family Code Section 3443(a), you must prove that the out-of-state custody order was based on proper jurisdiction. Sometimes the court's finding of jurisdiction can be on paperwork other than the custody order itself. Take care to file the paperwork proving jurisdiction.

    Ask an experienced California family lawyer to help you write your petition on pleading paper if you are having difficulty writing it yourself.

    Before you go to your local California courthouse to file your packet, call the court clerk to ask how much the filing will cost and what form of payment the court will accept, so that you will be prepared to pay when you file your paperwork.

    Bring your personal and business calendar with you to the courthouse when you file. The clerk will set a court appearance on a specific date and time convenient to your schedule.


  • This information is current as of September 2010. Check with your attorney or your local courthouse for any updates before proceeding.

    Your local courthouse may require you to file different or additional paperwork.

    This article is not intended to provide legal advice. Before taking any action on your case, speak with a knowledgeable California family law attorney for personal legal advice specific to your circumstances.



About the Author

Lee Gulmind started writing legal articles in 2006. He has written hundreds of articles, primarily relating to family law and criminal law matters, many of which appear on Southern California Defense Blog. He is a practicing attorney who regularly represents individuals in court. Gulmind holds a Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law.

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