Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution is known as the “Full Faith and Credit Clause.” It requires that states honor the court judgements of other states. For instance, let’s say a defendant runs a red light and hits your car as you’re crossing an intersection in New Jersey, and a New Jersey judge awards you $50,000 in damages. The defendant lives in Texas and refuses to pay you. Pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit clause, the state of Texas will help enforce the judgment and help you collect your awarded damages.

When is Full Faith and Credit Commonly Enforced?

In general, Full Faith and Credit is typically used to enforce marriage/divorce certificates (i.e. legal documentation proving the validity of a marriage or divorce), child custody rulings, restraining orders, money judgments and criminal convictions.

Are There Times when Full Faith and Credit is Not Extended?

Yes. The purpose of the Full Faith and Credit Clause is to apply a consistent standard equally among all fifty states. However, if the Full Faith and Credit Clause clashes with public policy of the state, it may not be enforced. For instance, California permits transgender individuals to change the gender on their birth certificate and state ID cards to reflect their chosen gender. California considers this right for the transgender community good for the public as a whole.

Conversely, New Mexico does not allow this same change and does not recognize the benefit to the public. In this instance, the full faith and credit clause would not apply to require New Mexico to allow transgendered individuals to change their gender on birth certificates and state ID cards.

Is Full Faith and Credit Given to Child Custody Determinations?

The Full Faith and Credit law requires every state to enforce child custody or visitation determinations made by the court of another state. For example, authorities in Maine are required to enforce and abide by custody orders which are made in Oregon. This applies to both permanent and temporary orders, as well as modifications made on court orders in the “home state” (i.e. state where the judgment is originally made).

Can Full Faith and Credit Affect Child Custody?

Full Faith and Credit affects child custody in that it allows child custody orders to be carried out equally among all fifty states plus the District of Columbia. Pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), states are required to enforce child custody judgments from other states. In other words, if Washington grants a mother full custody of her child, Georgia will honor the custody arrangement.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you are trying to enforce or modify custody of your child made by the home state, you may wish to consult a lawyer. Working with a knowledgeable family law attorney can help you understand your legal rights, file the appropriate paperwork, and help you attain the results you desire.