How Illinois Custody Laws Help Protect Children
When couples divorce in Illinois, they have to divide legal and physical custody of their children. In the case of unmarried parents, the mother has sole custody till the father confirms paternity. These laws protect children and ensure their best interests are not violated or ignored as their parents battle it out. Chicago child custody lawyers will tell you the same and help you create a parenting plan that can work for you.
Besides protecting the child’s best interest, custody laws protect children against parental kidnapping. Custodial parent rights are protected by laws that prevent a spouse, former partner, or family member from taking and moving their children to another state.
What Is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)?
The UCCJEA is a law that prevents child kidnapping or removal incidents by non-custodial parents. The law was established in the mid-’90s and followed in almost every state, including Illinois. Puerto Rico and Massachusetts are the only two states that haven’t adopted the law.
This law designates a child’s ‘home state’ irrespective of the parent’s resident state or where their custodial guardian lives. The law replaced the previous one to provide additional protection per the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.
So the child’s home state will have jurisdiction over their care and custody during parental disputes. This clarifies the legal process and allows child and family care services to protect the child’s well-being without affecting child custody decisions.
How Jurisdiction and Custody are Determined
For jurisdiction or geographic disputes, the court tries to determine which state the child has set down roots in because of family, school, and health care, among other criteria. The initial custody helps the court decide the area that establishes the geographic residence of the child.
The three steps involved in determining the home state of a child include the following:
- If the child stays in a state for six months or more, it is legally their home before custody proceedings.
- The ties to a geographic region are considered if the child lived in different states and left before six months. For example, if the child completed several grades in a single district, that state will be considered their legal home.
- If the first two criteria are not an option, the home state can be determined with the child’s medical records, the presence of family members in the state, or any other ties that link the child to the state.
The court can designate an ‘emergency home state’ for the child if it thinks the child’s life is in danger because of an abusive parent. This happens if Child Protective Services believes removing children from their homes is in their best interests. In this case, the laws of the emergency home state apply to child custody proceedings as it assumes temporary jurisdiction.
For example, if your children visit their mother or father in California and you find out they are being abused, you can file for a temporary emergency jurisdiction. At that point, a California court will enter orders to protect your children. The issuing and resident state will confer later as a necessary precaution to protect the children in emergencies.
Modifying Jurisdiction under UCCJEA
So as long as the child or either of the parents lives in the state, once a court enters the custody order, only the state has jurisdiction to modify it unless:
- The state transfers jurisdiction to a different state because it is more convenient for the parties involved.
- The state declines jurisdiction because of a lack of evidence regarding the child’s care, training, protection, and relationships.
If the parents move out of the issuing state, the new state will have jurisdiction over anything related to child custody. In this case, you need to determine the child’s home state. The answer may not be as straightforward as you think if you and the child moved out of the issuing state less than six months ago.
To avoid competing orders from different states, the states’ courts will confer to come to a decision regarding the child’s home state. The UCCJEA was established to prevent this since it can cause long-term harm to the child.
If you wish to establish your child’s jurisdiction, contact Chicago child custody lawyers with the experience you need to streamline the process.
What Is The ‘Best Interest Of The Child?’
In an Illinois custody case, the court will base its decision on the ‘best interest’ of the children involved. This means it will determine what their life will look like post-divorce and how the changes will impact them. Section 602 of the Illinois Divorce Act outlines these factors that the court uses to determine the best interests of the children:
- The wishes of the children regarding their custodian
- The wishes of the children’s parents as to their custody.
- The interactive quality of the children with each parent, their siblings, and any other individuals who can affect their best interest.
- The physical and mental health of the parties involved.
- How well the children will adjust to their new home, school, and neighborhood.
- Ongoing abuse, if any. This can be directed at the children or anyone else living in their home.
- The children’s needs.
- The wishes of the parents as to the child’s living arrangements.
- The ability and willingness of the parents to encourage a close and healthy relationship with one another for the sake of the children.
- Whether any of the parents is a sex offender.
- The terms of a family care plan in case the parents are members of the US Armed Forces and which they must complete before deployment.
The children’s best interest in a divorce case is determined case by case since each is unique. The court will evaluate the circumstances involving each child to decide their future. There is no set formula that can determine this. The decision is purely based on evidence the court uses to come to a conclusion.
Some of these factors may not be relevant to your divorce or separation. Some may carry more weight than others, as per your existing personal circumstances. Your aim should be to develop a parenting plan that can serve your child’s best interests rather than yours. The court will not consider your priorities since it always prioritizes children in divorce cases.
Only some issues can make the court favor one parent over the other: if one of them is a sex offender, has a violent criminal record, is abusive or if the children want to stay with one parent more than the other. If a stepparent desires custody, the court usually rules in favor of the biological parents. In this case, the stepparent has to show why they are better than the natural parent when it comes to protecting the child’s best interest.
Besides the parents, the court will also look at the people they are living with to see which one offers the safest environment for the children. If abuse is apparent, the court may order the parents to cooperate and be involved in their lives. Joint custody is never assumed, and whether you are married to the other parent or not isn’t considered either. In Illinois, both parents have an equal chance for custody. However, mothers of nursing children are usually given custody as fathers cannot breastfeed.
The court weighs each factor carefully against the others on the list. That is the best way the court knows to determine child custody in the state. Contact a divorce attorney who has experience in your case for a detailed look at the process.
Contact The Law Office Of Fedor Kozlov, P.C For A Consultation Today!
Are you going through a bitter divorce or need to establish child custody ASAP beforehand? Contact our Chicago child custody lawyers at The Law Office of Fedor Kozlov by dialing (847) 241-1299. We will work with you at every stage of divorce proceedings to ease your burden and the emotional distress you are in. We aim to ensure the best results while protecting our client’s rights throughout the process.
Our friendly and experienced child support attorneys know Illinois child custody laws by heart, and this includes updates that can impact your case. We practice exclusively in family law and are more than capable of providing legal advice, representation, and dispute resolution services. Our family law practice areas include:
- Property division
- Business division
- Tax implications
- Child support
- Domestic violence
- Estate planning
- Debt division
Our attorneys are fierce litigators but gentle with the families they represent against tough opponents. Contact us for a completely confidential consultation today! We will evaluate your needs before developing a sound legal strategy to protect your rights and ensure a stable future. Contact us at our office in Schaumburg, Illinois.
We understand how important your child’s physical and emotional well-being is and will do our best to protect it. At this time, you need sound legal advice and strong representation to ensure your family is protected and conflicts timely resolved. Our lawyers will not only protect your family, but they can also set a strong foundation for a stable post-divorce life.