Child custody cases present many challenges for parents and the children at the center of these disputes. Emotions run high and some parents let their desperation for custody guide their actions, even if it is not in the best interest of the child. Abrupt and secretive relocation of the children is one example of this behavior. According to the Uniform Law Commission, parental kidnapping became a widespread problem during the 60s and 70s. If a parent was unhappy with a custody decision, they moved the child to another state and filed a new custody case. Many of these situations resulted in the overturning of the original court orders, leaving families with multiple custody orders that were in direct conflict with one another.
In response, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was developed to create a standard set of nationally recognized regulations. The basic premise of the act is to:
- Establish and maintain jurisdiction over a child custody case in one, single state; and
- Disallow modification of the order by another state, as long as jurisdiction remains with the original state.
The Act’s Provisions
In establishing appropriate state jurisdiction, the UCCJEA uses four possible bases for making a determination:
- The home state, which is generally determined by the child’s residence within a state for at least six months prior to the commencement of a custody case;
- Significant connections to a state, which may include school registration and familial contacts;
- The child’s emergency presence within the state due to a significant threat to the child’s welfare and well being; and
- The child’s presence in the state because there is no other state with appropriate jurisdiction.
Once jurisdiction is established, it continues as long as the grounds for initial determination exist. For example, a child’s home state retains jurisdiction over the child until a new home state is established. Because this generally requires the child’s presence in the state for at least six months, home states cannot be changed by a quick relocation. In cases of emergency jurisdiction, the designation continues as long as no other state can demonstrate sufficient grounds for jurisdiction.
The other major provision of the UCCJEA is the mandatory enforcement of custody orders within other states. As long as a state maintains continuous jurisdiction over a child, all other states are required to recognize any custody and visitation orders from its courts. This means that other states may not vacate or modify the order. Additionally, the state may take steps to enforce the order if a parent is not in compliance. This may even include criminal justice actions against the violating parent.
Determining jurisdiction within Illinois is only the first step in a custody dispute. These cases can prove challenging and failure to follow all court rules and regulations can lead to a loss of custody. Contact one of our family law attorneys at the Law Office of Elizabeth J. Chacko, P.C. today for assistance with your custody case. Serving clients in Wheaton, Carol Stream and Lombard, our attorneys are available to assist you.