When Does Illinois Have Jurisdiction Over Child Custody Matters?

Often, the most difficult and contentious disputes in family law are disputes over child custody. Most parents want to spend as much time as possible with their children and have a major hand in how their children are raised. However, when parents are no longer together in a relationship, their lives can often take them to dramatically different destinations. Parents wind up in different cities, or even different states.

When parents go to different states, they may have questions about where child custody issues will be handled. Similarly, parents who are new to this situation and have heard negative statements about their own state’s child custody laws may consider running to another state with their child that they perceive as having “better” laws. Finally, when one parent is fleeing from domestic violence, these issues become even more complicated. Below are the basics.

How is Jurisdiction Decided in Child Custody Cases?

Illinois statute sets when Illinois courts have jurisdiction in child custody cases. In doing so it relies on Section 201 of the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act as adopted by Illinois.

Uniform acts are acts that are drafted by an advisory body and are then adopted by various states with the goal of having similar laws in each state for matters that often wind up crossing state lines. In the case of custody disputes, its not so much that this law keeps the substantive law the same in each state, but it is more that each state decides whether it has jurisdiction over a child custody case in the same way.

Jurisdiction is, in very basic terms, a court’s legal authority to make a decision in a case. So, for example, if you live in Illinois and your home is burgled and the burglar is caught, the Illinois courts will have jurisdiction over the case. Even if the burglar was caught in Alaska he or she could not be tried for the Illinois burglary in Alaska because Alaska lacks jurisdiction over crimes that happen outside of state borders.

When Does Illinois Have Jurisdiction in Child Custody Cases?

There are a few different circumstances under which Illinois has jurisdiction in a child custody case. The main situation where Illinois will decide is if Illinois has “home state” jurisdiction. The state with home-state jurisdiction has priority over other states in these cases. Illinois has home-state jurisdiction when:

  • The children have lived in Illinois for at least the past six months; or
  • The children live in another state but they have lived in Illinois within the past six months and at least one of their parents or guardians still lives in Illinois.

If you have recently moved to Illinois—instead of recently leaving—other states may have the ability to decide child custody matters regarding your children. However, even if Illinois does not have home-state jurisdiction, there are limited circumstances under which it may get to decide custody matters:

  • Illinois may decide custody issues if no state, including Illinois, has home state jurisdiction; or
  • Illinois may decide custody issues if the state with home-state jurisdiction decides not to hear the case and one of the parents has strong ties to Illinois. This is a tool that can be used by domestic violence survivors who have to move to Illinois to escape abuse.

Call Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C.

If you are facing an Illinois custody dispute you will need the knowledge and skills of an experienced Illinois family law attorney on your side. You should call the child custody lawyers at Sullivan Taylor & Gumina, P.C. We will tailor our representation to your specific needs and fight for your rights in this difficult process. Call us today at (630) 756-5112 to schedule an appointment.