A New York appellate court has ruled that a father could not register a California custody order in New York when he had previously failed to oppose the mother's effective registration of an Israeli custody order which had modified the California order. Matter of Worsoff v. Worsoff, 161 A.D. 3d 879, 75 N.Y.S.2d 525 (N.Y. App. Div. 2018).
The parties lived in California with their children. In 2014 a California court awarded custody to the mother with visitation to the father. The mother then moved to Israel with the children, after which the California court modified its prior order and granted sole custody to the father.
The mother opened a custody case in Israel and the Israeli court, on father's default, issued an order granting sole custody to the mother, who then relocated with the children to New York. The mother then filed an application to register the Israeli order in the Family Court of Nassau County, whose Clerk served the requisite 20-day notice on the father.
The father did not take advantage of his statutory UCCJEA right to contest the validity of the registration by requesting a hearing within twenty days after service of the notice, and the Clerk of the Family Court certified the registration of the Israeli order. A few weeks later, the father petitioned the same court to register and enforce the California order, claiming that the Israeli court had had no modification jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. “Too late,” said the Family Court. On appeal, the Appellate Division ruled that the father's failure to seek a hearing within the statutory twenty-day period precluded him from subsequently contesting the registration of the Israeli order. Confirmation of the registration “precludes further contest of the order with respect to any matter that could have been asserted at the time of registration” and meant that the Family Court had necessarily and correctly concluded that the California order had been effectively modified by the Israeli order.
The Lesson: Pursuant to the UCCJEA, if the registration of a foreign custody order is confirmed after the opposing party has failed to request a hearing within twenty days of service of the required statutory notice, that party cannot subsequently assert that the foreign order was issued by a court that had no jurisdiction to do so.