My practice has seen an increase in the number of interstate custody disputes, in part due to the increased mobility of families as well as due to age old issues of parents wishing to return to their “home state” with their children once the marriage begins to break down. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), a national uniform act, was enacted in Illinois on July 8, 2003, and took effect on January 1, 2004.1 It was incorporated into Illinois law to end custody jurisdictional disputes between states, to promote cooperation between states in determining custody issues, and to enhance the ability of states to enforce custody orders expeditiously.
I receive calls frequently from parents who have either fled the state of Illinois to avoid domestic violence and a bad marriage, or from parents left behind in Illinois once a divorce commences and the opposing spouse wishes to leave Illinois and run “home” with the children to his or her family out of state.
Illinois law disfavors parents leaving the state and taking the children with them. Illinois has long had a tradition of requiring Illinois parents in divorce to stay in Illinois and raise the children here with both parents. Our removal statute creates factors that determine whether a party may lawfully “remove” the child or children from Illinois to reside permanantly in another state.
The UCCJEA as part of Illinois created a powerful tool to help the states determine whether Illinois or another state should decide an interstate custody dispute. What has been interesting to me in my custody practice has been the observation that even though the UCCJEA in incorporated into most states’ law, few lawyers and a minority number of judges seem to understand how the UCCJEA works and how it is intended to guide interstate custody decisions.
THe UCCJEA is a powerful tool in an Illinois lawyer’s arsenal. If your spouse has fled the state with your children, or if you have left the state lawfully to avoid domestic violence, please contact my office for a thourough consultation on interstate custody and the UCCJEA.