It’s summertime again. And for an Illinois divorce lawyer, that means it’s time for fake vacations that lead to interestate custody battles.
What happens is that a parenting claims to be taking the kids on vacation to another state – then they don’t come back! It’s sick, but it happens more than you might expect. And that leads to an interstate child custody battle involving the Uniform Interstate Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).
If this has happened to you, there are steps you need to take NOW. If you wait, you are risking time with your kids in involvement in their lives.
First, let’s get some terminology straight:
- Taking Parent: The parenting who take the kids on “vacation”.
- Scumbag: See definition of “Taking Parent”
- Left-behind Parent: the parenting who does not take the kids on “vacation”
- Home state: The state where the kids were taken from by the Taking Parent. This also has a special meaning per the UCCJEA – where the kids have lived for at least 6 months prior to the commencement of a court case.
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”): The law that controls what state has jurisdiction (power) to hear a child custody dispute.
How it gets started:
Perhaps the easiest way is to describe a scenario as a dialogue with a timeline.
Taking Parent: I’d like to take the kids to my parents’ place in California this summer.
Left-behind Parent: Okay, I’ll come visit them, I think they’d like that.
Taking Parent: Great.
Taking Parent: I don’t think our marriage is working out. The kids are much happier here.
Left-behind Parent: What? Please come back. Please bring the kids back.
Taking Parent: I’ll think about it. But don’t you want what’s is best for them. My parents are rich and will send them to a great private school.
Left-behind Parent: I think they need to come home. Please bring them home.
Taking Parent: I enrolled them in school here because they need to be in school while we work this out
Left-behind Parent: What? I thought you needed me to enroll them? How did this happen. Please bring them back.
Taking Parent: F-U.
September 1 – Dec. 20
The Left-behind parent begs and begs, and is allowed to see the kids once. Left-behind Parent is depressed, and keeps hoping the Taking Parent will bring the kids back. Left-behind Parent thinks that if he/she just appeases the Taking Parent, the Taking Parent will come to his/her senses and bring the kids back.
But what if the kids are in California for at least 6 months? Left-behind Parent might regret it, big time.
Left-behind Parents should not sit on their rights!
If someone takes kids away, it is often the case that the Left-behind Parent thinks the other parent should be appeased. Act nice. Beg for the kids return. But the whole time that’s going on, the kids are getting established in the new place, and time is passing.
In fact, per the UCCJEA (adopted in every state) if the kids are in the new state for at least 6 months, that state is likely to have jurisdiction to hear the custody case for the kids – to the exclusion of every other state.
In other words, if you kids are taken from Illinois to another state, then they live in that other state for at least 6 months, that other state might hear the custody case – instead of Illinois.
The lesson – never trust a Taking Parent to bring the kids back. If a Left-behind Parents sit on their rights and don’t take action, they make regret it.
Left-behind Parents should take action and avoid UCCJEA emergencies.
What to do?
If I used this article to write a step by step guide about what a Left-behind Parent should do, it would be about 300 pages long.
A Left-behind Parent has almost ZERO chance of being able to handle the situation without a lawyer. Don’t believe me? Well if this happens to you, then you will believe me after you waste time in court and go a month or two without seeing your kids.
A Left-behind Parent should hire a lawyer immediately. But not just any lawyer – only a lawyer with considerable expertise with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”). As one of the lawyers who is most knowledgeable on the UCCJEA in Illinois, I can tell you that those lawyers are few and far between – and that’s because few have handled complex UCCJEA cases.
Here are just some of the steps I might take for a Left-behind Parent:
- Obtain an order of protection order the child back
- Interface with law enforcement, and the state’s attorney
- Work with private investigators to locate children in another state
- File various UCCJEA motions
- Obtain an order for temporary allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly called “custody”)