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How to Make a Foreign Divorce the Official Record

On Behalf of | Nov 26, 2022 | Firm News

As a law firm with an international focus, Wilson Law Group frequently sees family court orders from other states and even other countries. Typically, clients want to know “is my order from this other place enforceable in Minnesota?” The answer is almost certainly yes.Per Minnesota Statute 518D.305, orders regarding child custody from another state may be registered in Minnesota. Orders from another country may also be registered, though if the law of the foreign country violates fundamental principles of human rights, the Minnesota court does not need to register or enforce the foreign order.

Registration is a fairly simple process – the registering party must provide the court with a letter requesting registration, two copies of the order to be registered (including a certified copy of the original order), and an affidavit stating that the order has not been modified. These documents must be filed with the court and sent to the other party. The other party may contest the validity of the document, though such a request must be made within 20 days of receiving notice of the registration.

Once the order has been registered, this means that the court of Minnesota can enforce the order just as though the case originated in Minnesota. For example, a parent can bring a motion for parenting time assistance to enforce a parenting time schedule or a motion for child support to be enforced. Modifying a registered court order, though, is more complicated. Minnesota can only modify a registered order if the prior court decides it no longer has jurisdiction over the matter, or neither a parent (or guardian) nor a child continue to reside in the prior state. Here are a few scenarios that explain this distinction:

Example 1: Mary and Jack were never married and had a child (David) together in Wyoming. They received an order for custody and parenting time in the Wyoming court. The Wyoming court also ordered Jack to pay Mary $400 a month for child support. A few years later, Mary and David decided to move to Minnesota. Jack thought that was a great idea and decided to move to Minnesota as well. Mary then registered the Wyoming order with the Minnesota court and asked that the court recalculate child support since Jack is now making more money at his new job in Minnesota. The Minnesota court can modify the child support order pursuant to Minnesota law because now all parties live in Minnesota.

Example 2: Jorge and Maria were married and divorced in Mexico in 2019. They have 2 children. Their order from Mexico says that they shall share custody and parenting time and ordered Jorge to pay Maria child support. Maria and the children moved to Minnesota and Maria sought to register the Mexico order with the Minnesota court in order enforce parenting time and child support. She would also like to modify the Mexico court order to change the parenting time schedule. While she can register the Mexico order with the Minnesota court, the Minnesota court cannot change the parenting time schedule as Jorge continues to live in Mexico. Maria will have to file a motion to modify parenting time in Mexico.

Example 3: Melissa and John were married, had 2 children, and then divorced in Illinois. The divorce order granted Melissa and John a 50/50 parenting time schedule and ordered no child support. A few years later, Melissa decided to move, without the children, to New York and the children stayed with John in Illinois. John and the children then moved to Minnesota. John registered the Illinois order and asked the Minnesota court to determine a new parenting time schedule and order Melissa to pay child support. Since no one (neither Melissa, John, nor their 2 children) continue to live in Illinois, the Minnesota court can modify the parenting time schedule and set child support based on Minnesota law.

Example 4: Megan and James were never married and had a child together in Wisconsin. They received an order from the Wisconsin court that set a parenting time schedule and ordered Megan to pay James child support. Megan moved to Minnesota, while James and their child stayed in Wisconsin. Megan wants to register the Wisconsin order in Minnesota and file a motion in Minnesota to reduce her child support because she has heard that Minnesota child support laws are “better” than Wisconsin and believes she will pay less. Megan cannot do this. Because James and their child remain in Wisconsin, the Minnesota court cannot modify anything about the Wisconsin order, including child support.

If you have any questions about registering a foreign or out-of-state decree in Minnesota, contact Wilson Law Group to schedule a free consultation with one of our family law attorneys.