Child taken to Illinois? It’s a UCCJEA emergency!

If your child has been taken from some other state to Illinois – without your permission – then you are likely experiencing a child custody emergency. That being the case, you will need a lawyer with expertise in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”). The UCCJEA is a “uniform law” that has been adopted by nearly every state.

The problem is that most lawyers have little to no useful familiarity with the UCCJEA – let alone familiarity with using it within the context of an emergency. But I do. 

Furthermore, I was the winning appellant in my own UCCJEA case that was heard before the Michigan Supreme Court.

If your child was wrongfully removed from your state and brought to Illinois, I will take your case personally. I hold people who alienate children in the greatest contempt, and I back that up with solid legal representation. If your child has been taken to Illinois form California, New York, Michigan, Florida (or any other state), then you need to act NOW. Not later. The longer you wait, the less likely you will be to win your case.

I wrote this article to help those parents who have been victimized by the other parent wrongfully removing a child and bringing the child to Illinois.

What is the UCCJEA?

The UCCJEA is a “uniform law” that has been adopted by every state except Massachusetts. The purpose of the law is to help states be on the same page when determining which state has jurisdiction (or power) to decide a child custody case.

The reason this law is so important is because it is very important if a child custody case is heard in the state the child was taken from – or where the child was taken too.

Furthermore, the UCCJEA has provisions that govern the enforcement of one state’s orders in another state.

For example.

Suppose a child lived in California from the birth to the age of 3. Then upon turning three, one parent removes the child from California to live in Illinois – against the wishes of the left-behind parent in California. Then, immediately after the removal of the child, the left-behind parent files a custody case in California. In such as case, California would have jurisdiction to make an “initial child custody determination,” and whatever California orders could be enforced in Illinois.

That being said, getting orders from some other state enforced in Illinois is not as easy as many think it should be. I discuss some aspects of enforcing non-Illinois orders below.

When should I get an Illinois UCCJEA lawyer?

Now. Not later. Now.

Many times I have run into “left behind” parents who think that the parent who took the child away will decide to come back. That’s wishful thinking, and dangerous.

Look at it this way. If a parent basically kidnaps a kid and takes that kid unexpectedly to another state, is that someone you want to rely on to do the right thing? I don’t think so. If you do, you’re being stupid.

If you do have a UCCJEA case right now, you should keep in mind the points I bring up in this article about handling UCCJEA cases.

If the other parent has wrongfully taken your child to Illinois, and you want your child back, then you need to act immediately. And that means you need a lawyer now. And the most important thing to consider when choosing a lawyer in this situation is that lawyers familiarity with the UCCJEA – because that is the law that will control much of what happens in terms of bringing your child back. If you want to know a bit more about the UCCJEA, you might check out my article, “What is the Illinois UCCJEA? Basic FAQ.”

When can I go to court?

If your child has been removed from your state and taken to Illinois without your permission, then you probably want to go to court right away to rectify the situation.

However, answer the question “When can I go to court” is more complicated than it may seem.

That’s because whatever state you are in – where the child was taken from – most likely has the jurisdiction to make child custody determinations and to order the child back. Therefore, when a child is unlawfully taken to Illinois, what is usually done is that the other state will order the child back, then that other state’s orders will be enforced in Illinois.

As a child custody lawyer license in Illinois, I cannot give you legal advice about what to do in your state. However, I can work with the lawyer in your state to help the process of recovering your Child in Illinois.

If you have taken quick action in your state, and the judge in your state granted you something on an emergency basis, then Illinois should also treat your matter as an emergency.

When a matter is treated as an emergency, the judge can order something immediately – without giving the other party a chance to respond. To learn more about emergencies, you should check out my article “Child Custody Emergency Motions: the basics.”

Can’t I call the police?

If your child has been wrongfully taken from you by the other parent, you can call the police – but you will probably be wasting your time and become very frustrated. Here’s something you need to know about police: 1) they have other things to do that they consider more important, and 2) they are incentivivzed not to report crimes.

Law enforcement might be involved at some point, but that point is likely after you secure the proper court orders – what actually matters in a case.

How can an out-of-state order be enforced in Illinois?

Suppose you are a left-behind parenting in California, Wisconsin, Florida, or New York. Perhaps – immediately after your child was taken from your state – your procured a court order from your state saying that your child should come back to your state from Illinois.

You think you can just take that order to Illinois and get your kid back?

Unfortunately, probably not.

If you go to the police, they will most likely ignore you, or otherwise find a reason not to help you. In many cases, it is best to get the out-of-state order “enrolled” in Illinois. That means an Illinois judge will basically turn the order into an Illinois order. Doing this can get fairly complicated, but enrollment is a good place to start.

Can you work with my lawyer

If you live outside Illinois, and you child was taken to Illinois, then I am available to work with your lawyer to take care of business.

One reason this is necessary is the concept of enrollment of the non-Illinois order, and also, enforcement.

For example, suppose you live in California. If your child was wrongfully taken from California to Illinois, then you might get a California court order that says your child should come back. But since you want that order enrolled and enforced in Illinois, it would be useful if the California court orders contained certain provisions. What I can do is work with out-of-state lawyers to help give clients the best shot at getting their orders enforced in Illinois.

About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).