Jurisdictional Issues related to Domestic Violence


When a victim of domestic violence flees from one state to another and files an action there, it is not uncommon for the abuser to claim that the new state does not have jurisdiction, or the authority to hear the case. This is common in child custody cases where the general rule of law is that the child’s “home state”, where the child has been living for the last six months, shall be where the case is heard.

However, it would be counterintuitive for the court to require victims to return to Illinois to proceed with a child custody action when they could face continued abuse. The law recognizes that it may be appropriate in such circumstances of abuse for the home state to decline jurisdiction and for the new state to hear the case. In fact, uniform law that is recognized by all of the states, requires that the state courts communicate with each other when there are jurisdictional disputes.

As long as the state to which the victims have relocated has significant connections to the parties other than their mere presence and has substantial evidence related to the children’s welfare, the state courts may mutually agree that the new state shall best protect the parties in view of the domestic violence.

Various other factors, such as economic circumstances of the parties and whether victim wrongfully absconded the children, will also be considered in determining jurisdiction. The court may not only hear custody matters and issues related to domestic violence but also the entire divorce proceeding.

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