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Child Custody
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The Basics of Illinois Custody Law

If you live in Illinois and are engaged in a custody battle for your child, you need to know the basic rules of Illinois custody.

Is Illinois the Proper Jurisdiction?

Before an Illinois court can decide custody, it must have jurisdiction-the legal right to decide your case. Illinois follows a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

Under the UCCJEA, you may start an Illinois custody case if Illinois is the home state of your child when you file your case.

You may also start an Illinois custody case even if your child is not currently in Illinois provided you live in the state and your childs home was in Illinois within six months of the filing.

Illinois also may have jurisdiction in other instances. An Illinois divorce and custody attorney can help you determine if the state can hear your case.

When you ask an Illinois court to take your case, you will need to provide facts that show jurisdiction. You must list your childs current address as well as the places he or she has lived, and the people he or she has lived with for the last five years. You must also tell the court if you know of any other custody cases involving your child or of any other individuals who believe they have a right to custody.

Who Can Ask for Custody of a Child in Illinois?

In an Illinois divorce or custody case, either parent may request custody, or both parents may agree to joint custody.

You may also ask the court to determine custody in other situations, including:

  • If you are not married to the other parent but need to determine custody of a child
  • If you want to be the legal guardian of a child
  • If you need to determine who the parent of your child is

If your Illinois divorce is still in progress, you may ask the court for a temporary custody order. The order will settle custody while the divorce proceeds.

How is Illinois Custody Determined?

In Illinois, custody is decided based on what is in the best interest of the child. The court will consider many items when making a custody decision, including:

  • The parents opinion and the childs opinion
  • The relationship between the child and each parent, family members, and people close to the family
  • If each parent will work to create a close relationship between the child and both parents
  • If the parents can cooperate in raising the child
  • The childs home, school, and community adjustment
  • The mental and physical health of all people involved in the childs life, including the child
  • If the child would be in danger of physical harm or abuse if placed with one parent
  • If either parent is a sex offender
  • Any other item that is important to the childs best interest

In Illinois, joint custody, sole custody and split custody are permitted. In cases of divorce, the law presumes that it is best for a child to have both parents involved in their lives. This does not mean that joint custody is awarded in all cases; it simply means that the court may grant joint custody if it believes it will benefit the child.

If the court finds that one parent is better able to care for the child, it may award sole custody to that parent.

Can Illinois Custody be Modified?

In Illinois, custody may be modified, or changed, only in specific cases. The law works to make the childs life as stable as possible, and so it needs a strong reason to change the custody arrangements.

Illinois custody law allows modification in two cases. Custody may be changed if a parent is judged by a court to be unfit to raise the child. Custody may also be modified if a change with one or more custodians directly affects the child. The event must be so important that modification is necessary to protect the childs best interest.

The law says that the court may not modify custody until two years after the first decision. There are only two exceptions: If everyone with custody agrees, or if there is an emergency.