When does an Illinois court have jurisdiction to decide a child's custody?
This issue comes up when the parents live in different states or a parent has recently moved into or out of the state. In order to avoid conflicting custody opinions from courts in different states, a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) sets the rules on which court has jurisdiction. (Jurisdiction refers to the court's legal right to make binding decisions involving the parties to a lawsuit.)
Among other things, the UCCJEA determines which state is the child's "home state" for custody matters. Courts in the home state have jurisdiction over custody litigation involving that child -- and the courts of the child's home state are the only ones that can hear a custody case for that child.
Illinois has jurisdiction to hear a child custody case if: * The child has lived in Illinois for at least the last six months (or since birth, if the child is not yet six months old). * The child lives out of state, but lived in Illinois within the past six months and one of the child's parents still lives in the state. * No other state is the child's home state (or the child's home state has declined to exercise jurisdiction in deference to Illinois), and either (1) the child and at least one parent have significant connections with Illinois, and (2) substantial evidence exists in Illinois concerning the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships.
If you aren't certain whether your child custody case should be heard in Illinois or in another state, you should consult with an experienced attorney.
What factors are to considered in awarding custody?
The court must ultimately determine what would be in the child's best interests. The emphasis in a custody determination is not on which parent is "better" or "worse," but on the child's best interests considering all relevant factors, including but not limited to: * the wishes of the child's parent or parents as to who will have custody of the child * the wishes of the child about which parent will have custody * the interaction and relationship of the child with his or her parent(s), sibling(s), and anyone else who may significantly affect the child's best interest * the child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community * the mental and physical health of everyone involved * whether there has been physical violence or a threat of physical violence by the child's potential custodian, whether directed against the child or another person * whether there has been ongoing or repeated domestic violence, whether directed against the child or directed against another person * the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child * whether either parent is a sex offender, and * the terms of either parent's military family care plan that must be completed before deployment, if the parent is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who is being deployed.
Every custody case is unique, and the court is free to decide what weight to give to these and other factors in making its decision. However, the statute expressly says that the court should not consider a parent's conduct unless it affects that parent's relationship with the child.
What types of custody arrangements are available?
In Illinois (as in other states), courts distinguish between legal and physical custody. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make important decisions about