Child Custody Jurisdiction: Who has Jurisdiction Over My Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Case?

When it comes to child custody jurisdiction, Illinois child custody laws have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, otherwise known as the UCCJEA.  This law has been adopted by many United States jurisdictions to ensure that all jurisdictions use the same criteria when determining what state has jurisdiction for child-related issues.  This makes sense because having multiple courts in multiple jurisdictions entering conflicting orders relative to children would be messy and not in anyone’s best interests.

What is the “Home State” for Child Custody Cases?

For child custody cases which have not yet been filed, the “home state” determines where initial jurisdiction should lie for child custody or allocation of parental responsibility cases.  The home state is the state where the minor child most recently resided for a period of six (6) months prior to the proceedings. Keep in mind, that 6 month period does not include any temporary absences from the “home state” for things like vacation, etc.  A parent or person acting as a parent of the child must continue to reside in this state as well.  

For example, let’s say a child was born twelve months ago in Illinois.  However, a month ago, Dad decided to take the minor child and move to Florida.  Mom continues to reside in Illinois. Illinois would still have jurisdiction under the UCCEA, due to the fact that Illinois is the minor child’s home state and because the minor child’s mom still resides in Illinois.  Mom could file a case in Illinois relating to said child.

What Happens if the Parties Move Out of Illinois After the Custody Case is Over? Where Do They Go to Court Now? 

Once a Court has made a child custody determination, that Court retains what is called “continuing and exclusive jurisdiction” over the child and the case relative to the minor child.  Continuing and exclusive jurisdiction over the minor child only ends when an Illinois Court determines that the child, and the child’s parents (or a party acting as child’s parent):

  • do not have a significant connection to Illinois, AND
  • that there is no longer substantial evidence in Illinois relative to the minor child’s care, protection, training, etc.; OR
  • if another state determines that the child, child’s parents (or party acting as the child’s parent) no longer reside in Illinois.  

Until the case is transferred from one jurisdiction to another, the allocation of parental responsibilities order (formerly called a Custody Judgment) cannot be modified by the new jurisdiction. Although it cannot be modified, it can be enrolled for enforcement purposes prior to the state which has continuing and exclusive jurisdiction being relieved of jurisdiction.

What about Victims of Domestic Violence Who Flee the State with Their Children?

There is an exception made in the UCCJEA regarding when a Court which is not the Court in the child’s home state can exercise jurisdiction over a child related matter.  If the Court has a child present in the state who has been abandoned, or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, the child’s sibling or the child’s parent is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.  In that scenario, a state which is not the home state could exercise what is called “emergency jurisdiction” to enter an order to protect the child, temporarily, until an order can be obtained in the home state.

Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction

If the Court exercising Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction finds out that there is a State which has been asked to make a  child custody determination, the two competing courts must communicate. A UCCJEA conference is then held to determine which state should retain jurisdiction over the matter.  These hearings are often held in camera by the Court, but a court reporter makes a record of the conversation.

The complexities of jurisdiction and child custody laws require sound legal advice from experienced family law attorneys. Contact Anderson & Boback if you would like to discuss your family law situation or have questions about child custody jurisdiction.

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