Gary and Eric recently successfully enforced an Arizona divorce decree in Licking County, Ohio to secure the timely return of three children to Arizona in time for the start of school. Litigation involved a two-step process: (1) registration; and (2) enforcement.
There are effectively two ways to “register” a custody order from another state. The most common method, utilized by Gary and Eric in Licking County, is to comply with the requirements of R.C. 3127.35. These requirements include filing a motion/petition seeking registration of the foreign order, providing two copies (one certified) of the foreign order, providing the court with certain information regarding the parties and a sworn statement of the party seeking registration that the foreign order has not been modified. Alternatively, a party can also proceed upon a foreign order by way of R.C. 3127.15, which allows an Ohio court to modify a foreign custody order if either: (1) the court of the other state determines it no longer has continuing jurisdiction or that Ohio would be a more convenient forum; or (2) the court of the other state, or an Ohio court, determines that the parties no longer reside in the other state. Successful registration under R.C. 3127.35 occurs, absent objection, by operation of law after 30 days, whereas R.C. 3127.15 requires an affirmative decision by either the court of the other state or an Ohio court before a party can proceed upon the foreign custody order.
Enforcement can be sought contemporaneously with a motion to register the foreign order under R.C. 3127.35. Pursuant to R.C. 3127.38, a party can assert only a limited number of defenses against enforcement:
(1) The foreign custody order was not registered and confirmed under R.C. 3127.35 and either:
a. The issuing court did not have jurisdiction to make a custody determination;
b. The foreign custody order has been vacated / stayed / modified; or
c. The party contesting registration and enforcement did not receive proper notice of the foreign custody proceedings
(2) The foreign custody order was properly registered and confirmed under R.C. 3127.35 but has since been vacated / stayed / modified
If successful in pursuing enforcement of the foreign order, the court is required under R.C. 3127.42 to award the prevailing party the legal fees and expenses (e.g. travel, accommodations, etc.) unless the other party can establish such would be “clearly inappropriate.” Gary and Eric were able to utilize this statute to secure an award in favor of their client for the vast majority of the client’s legal fees and all of the expenses the client incurred.