Interstate Child Custody Disputes

Experienced child custody lawyers

St. Charles Illinois Interstate Custody Attorneys

Any custody dispute can be complicated and stressful. When the parents live in different states, there may be an added layer of conflict: which state’s courts will decide custody issues. Fortunately, Illinois and 48 other states have enacted the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Only Massachusetts has not. The District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have also adopted the UCCJEA.

That means that when one parent is in Illinois and the other in any of the states that have adopted the UCCJEA, there is no conflict of law regarding which state has jurisdiction. Under the statute, jurisdiction over custody matters lies with the child’s “home state.” That means the state where the child has resided with at least one parent for a period of six months or more before filing. This has largely eliminated a chaotic system in which any state where the child happened to be at the moment could exercise jurisdiction and parents sometimes engaged in a race to file in the more favorable state–sometimes even removing the child from their home state without the other parent’s consent or knowledge in order to create jurisdiction.

The UCCJEA is a significant improvement, but isn’t always as clear-cut as it sounds. For example, if the child has been traveling back and forth between the parents, there may be a dispute as to which is the child’s primary residence. Or, the child may not have lived in one place for six months leading up to the custody case. In that case, the custody case may be heard in any state where the child has substantial connections. Substantial connections may include the child’s prior home, the place they went to school, family members in the community, and similar factors.

Peskind Law Firm Has the Experience You Need

Custody proceedings involve more than just where a child will live. The family court also decides who will make important decisions for your child. With both your child’s welfare and the time you spend with them on the line, you can’t afford to take chances. Not every firm has extensive experience with interstate custody matters. The attorneys at Peskind Law Firm handle many complex family law issues, including interstate custody disputes. They have deep knowledge of the UCCJEA, and other substantive and procedural aspects of handling custody across state lines.

Continuing Jurisdiction and Enforcement

Generally, the court with original jurisdiction over an interstate custody matter retains that jurisdiction until the child reaches adulthood. However, in cases where that no longer makes sense, such as when both parents have moved out of state and the child no longer has ties to the original state, the court may determine that jurisdiction is no longer appropriate. However, only the original court can make that decision. Another court cannot take jurisdiction away from the original court.

Enforcement Across State Lines

One key benefit of the UCCJEA is that it allows and obligates other UCCJEA states to enforce the orders of another state that has passed the law and creates a smooth, efficient process for that enforcement. A custody and visitation order from one state can be registered in the state where the other parent resides before any conflict arises, so the second state can promptly act on that order if the order is violated. However, taking advantage of this system requires an understanding of the language that must be included in the custody order, and the procedures for ensuring that the order is properly registered.

Emergency Jurisdiction in Interstate Cases

There is one exception to the system for determining jurisdiction described above. Courts may exercise emergency jurisdiction when a child in the state has been abandoned, or when they have been abused or threatened with abuse. In other words, a court may exercise jurisdiction to protect a child within its state, even if it would not have regular jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. However, this jurisdiction is temporary, and does not create a loophole for continuing jurisdiction in that state if it is not the appropriate jurisdiction under the statute.

Talk to a Seasoned Custody Lawyer Today

If you are divorcing or pursuing custody in a paternity case and you and the child’s other parent live in separate states, it is important to work with an attorney who is experienced with interstate custody matters. The sooner you speak with a custody lawyer the better. Although the UCCJEA sets forth guidelines for determining which court has jurisdiction, there can be gray areas. For example, if the child has not lived in any state for six months leading up to the proceedings and arguably has ties to both states, another state could assume jurisdiction. If jurisdiction may become an issue, it’s important that you and your attorneys are well-prepared to make your case.

To learn more about how our team will put its extensive experience to work for you in an interstate custody matter, call 630-444-0701 right now, or fill out our contact form.