What is the Home State under the UCCJEA?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-young-girl-boy-fighting-over-bear-image17751201In a recent case which just came down from the Appellate Court, the court looked at jurisdiction under the UCCJEA.  The father, Joshua, filed a petition to establish the father child relationship in January 2010.  The child was born in Missouri.  He filed his petition in Champaign County, Illinois.  In February of that same year, an order was entered incorporating the parties’ agreement as to the custody of their son.

In November 2012, the mother and child moved to Nevada.  Then in 2013, Joshua filed a petition in Champaign County asking the court to terminate the joint custody arrangement, and asked for sole custody to be awarded to him.  Since the mother now lived in Nevada, and had lived there over six months, she filed a petition to vacate the original order entered in Champaign County.

In March, four years later, the Champaign court found the order to be void and dismissed Joshua’s January 2010 petition with prejudice. The court determined that it didn’t have jurisdiction to enter the order pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).  On appeal however, the Appellate court found that the Champaign court was correct when it entered the initial judgment and was incorrect for vacating the order four years later.

There is a lot of litigation when it comes to parents leaving “the home state” of the child without the other parent’s consent.  The home state is defined as the state that the child has resided in for the past six months.

The UCCJEA, which provides state courts with a method to resolve interstate child-custody disputes, states the following regarding the jurisdiction of Illinois courts in such custody matters:

“(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 204, a court of this State has jurisdiction to make an initial child-custody determination only if:

(1) this State is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this State but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this State;

(2) a court of another state does not have jurisdiction under paragraph (1), or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this State is the more appropriate forum under Section 207 or 208, and:

(A) the child and the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with this State other than mere physical presence; and

(B) substantial evidence is available in this State concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships;

(3) all courts having jurisdiction under paragraph

(1) or (2) have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that a court of this State is the more appropriate forum to determine the custody of the child under Section 207 or 208; or

(4) no court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in paragraph (1),

In the event that there are competing jurisdictions for custody, the courts confer with each other by telephone to determine which court should hear the case.  The Court which is deemed the home state gets to determine whether they will give up jurisdiction or not.  There has to be a compelling reason to encourage the home state to give up jurisdiction, and since all of these cases are fact specific, one should always consult with an attorney prior to moving from their home state.

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