In what state do I file my child custody case? What is jurisdiction and the 6 month rule?

law-related-object-set-book-gavel-scale-justice-31723205What is jurisdiction? Jurisdiction is the geographic area over which the courts have power enforce the laws. If both parents and child resided in Illinois at the commencement of proceedings and for a substantial time prior thereto, no jurisdictional problems exist. Illinois will find that it is the home state of the child; that the parties and child have significant connections with this state; and that there is substantial evidence concerning the child’s present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships in Illinois so that the Illinois court will have substantial and significant evidence presented to it about the best interests of the child in order to determine appropriate care, custody, and visitation issues.

However, we live in a mobile and litigious society that is always trying to figure out which court will be most impressed by certain facts. Attorneys will often try to bring a case in another jurisdiction to help them win their case.

The keys to having Illinois exercise jurisdiction in a UCCJEA battle lie within 750 ILCS 36/201. The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act prioritizes the circumstances under which jurisdiction may be exercised, and the first matter referred to in §201 is the issue of Illinois being the child’s home state. So what is a home state? Section 102(7) of the UCCJEA defines the term “home state” as follows:

“Home state” means the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child-custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period. 750 ILCS 36/102(7).

Thus, the home-state requirement envelops what has come to be known as the “six-month rule. Therefore, in Illinois, in order for the courts to exercise jurisdiction over the children, the children must have resided in the state of Illinois for at least 6 months prior to the commencement of the proceeding.

If you have questions on where to bring your case, give us a call.

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