Relocation by Deception: UCCJEA Emergency

If your marriage is breaking down and you like seeing your kids, one of the worst thoughts is probably your kids being taken far away from you. What if your kids were taken from Illinois, to another state, or vice versa? And what if the other parent took your kids away using deception? If you want to avoid being fooled into the losing end of an interstate child custody dispute, you should read this article the discusses relocation by deception and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Can a parent just take kids away?

A legally established parent can, absent a court order, take a kid anywhere. So generally speaking, if you want to know if the other parent can simply move your kids from one state to another, the answer is yes.

For example, let’s say you live in Illinois with the other parent (the “Removing Parent”), and two kids. One day, because the Removing Parent always wanted to move to California, he/she just gets up and takes the kids to California to live there permanently.

Is that a crime? No. If you simply let that happen, you can either move to California, or pretty much say goodbye to your kids.

Why would a parent remove by deception?

You might wonder why a parenting who removes a kid (the “Removing Parent”) would do so in a surprise manner.

Let me explain.

Let’s suppose you live in Illinois. Would you want to fight a legal case in California? Or New York? How about Texas or Florida? Probably not. In addition to the obvious logistical concerns, hiring a lawyer out-of-state can be hard, and fighting a whole legal case is even harder.

That pretty much explains why a parent would remove a kid by deception.

It’s kind of like a surprise attack which leaves the parenting left behind (the “Left Behind Parent”) at a severe disadvantage.

But there is an important legal reasons whey the Removing Parent would remove by deception, and that reasons is the law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (or the “UCCJEA”).

What is the UCCJEA?

The UCCJEA is a “uniform” law adopted in every state which is supposed to help guide judges in different states as to which state has jurisdiction to hear a case for the allocation of parenting responsibilities (what is basically the new term for “child custody”).

As a UCCJEA lawyer, I know more about the UCCJEA than most lawyers I’ve come across. So I’ve written several articles about the UCCJEA, including this general one about the UCCJEA, and this one about UCCJEA judicial teleconferences.

Without getting into too much detail, what tricky Removing Parent might do is fabricate some reasons to take the kids out of state for an extended period of time with the objective of keeping the kids in the new state for at least 6 months.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but what you need to know is this:

If your kids were taken to a new state, it twill be a lot harder to get the back if they have been there for 6 months.

While there are exceptions, one of the most important rules in the UCCJEA is that wherever the kids have been for the 6 months prior to litigation is the state that will be the “home state” which should have jurisdiction over the case.

For example, if Texas is the UCCJEA “home state,” then the case will probably be handled in Texas.

But remember, there are exceptions, and the exceptions are why you need a UCCJEA lawyer. There are no guarantees with any lawyer you hire, but hiring someone who has expertise in the UCCJEA is a good start if you do have an interstate custody (allocation) case.

What if my kids have already been removed from Illinois?

If your kids have already been removed from Illinois, then you might have an emergency on your hands. You should probably also read this article I wrote about UCCJEA emergencies.

Dealing with a UCCJEA emergency is kind of like dealing with a kidnapping. When hiring a lawyer, it is critical not only that you have a UCCJEA lawyer who knows the law, but also that you have one that is experienced in putting together what might resemble a “sting operation” to get your kid back.

But here’s the problem – sometime when a kid is taken by deception the Court thinks the matter is not an emergency. For example, let’s say about 5 months ago your kid was taken from Illinois to Texas. You are almost at the 6 month mark – and you just realized that when the Removing Parenting told you he or she was just going there for the summer, he or she was really planning to relocate permanently.

So you’ve been fooled.

In such a case, judges sometimes wrongly allow the wrongdoer – the Removing Parent – for tricking the Left Behind Parent into going allow with the children being taken to another state for a supposedly temporary time period.

A case like this is an example of why a Left Behind Parent really needs a good UCCJEA lawyer. . . a regular divorce lawyer won’t due. A lawyer with actual expertise into the UCCJEA will recognize how to address situations where the Left Behind Parent was tricked into thinking the children’s removal was temporary (when the Removing Parent meant it to be permanent).

For example, if I was handling a case with a tricked Left Behind Parent, I might use Section 208 of the Illinois UCCJEA, titled “Jurisdiction Declined by Reason of Conduct.”

What if the judge rules against me?

Sometimes trial judges get it wrong. That’s why there are appellate courts.

UCCJEA cases can be emotional, confusing, and fast-changing.

Of course, the best thing to do is to win your case at every step. But that is sometimes not possible.

If you want to appeal a decision in a UCCJEA can, I can evaluate your case, and handle an appeal.

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”).