You're having enough trouble dealing with your impending divorce. But now your spouse is talking about heading to St. Louis and filing for custody. You aren't sure of the rules over there, and you don't need any extra uncertainty at a time like this.
You might have a handle on how Marion does things, but Illinois and Missouri handle guardianship differently. And you might not have a say in which state hears your case. That's probably up to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
The UCCJEA looks to establish a baseline when dealing with jurisdiction and enforcement in custody hearings. It outlines how authority is likely to be awarded:
- A designated home state: The home state is where your children lived with a parent for at least six consecutive months leading up to the court hearing.
- Significant connections: Beyond physical presence, these connections can come in the form of extended family, doctors or teachers.
- Safety concerns: A state can forfeit authority if your children face the possibility of abuse, neglect or abandonment if they remained or returned.
- No qualifying state: A state can claim jurisdiction if no other state meets the other criteria, or if an applicable state declines authority.
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The courts will try to work together under the UCCJEA for the best interest of the children:
- Establishing jurisdiction: If you and your partner file in different states, the presiding judges could determine which state should handle the case.
- Keeping authority: Once a court claims jurisdiction, that state will usually handle rulings going forward.
- Custody enforcement: When the court puts an order in place, you can request Missouri to act on behalf of the ruling, and your partner can ask the same of Illinois.
Determining custody across state lines can be tough to deal with, both emotionally and technically. Know who has jurisdiction to make sure you know what you're facing in your child custody hearing.