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This issue comes up when the parents live in different states or a parent has recently moved into or out of the state.
In order to avoid conflicting custody opinions from courts in different states, a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) sets the rules on which court has jurisdiction.
Illinois, like all other states, requires judges to determine child custody based on the best interests of the child.
Below, you'll find answers to common questions about how Illinois courts decide this important issue.
If another person will come in contact with or influence the child by reason of a remarriage or otherwise in a child's or parent's living situation, and there is a basis for concern about the stability of the child's environment, the mental condition and character of that other person are relevant in an initial custody or modification proceeding.
If one parent intends to marry or live with a sex offender, that parent must notify the other parent ahead of time. Illinois law provides that when the court finds there has been ongoing abuse, it need not presume that the involvement and cooperation of both parents in raising the child is in the child's best interests.
Of course, a child's preference may not always accord with his or her best interests, and the court must use its own wisdom and common sense in making a custody award.
As a practical matter, courts are unlikely to disrupt an acceptable status quo in favor of an unknown alternative.
A court can award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to either.
(Jurisdiction refers to the court's legal right to make binding decisions involving the parties to a lawsuit.) Among other things, the UCCJEA determines which state is the child's "home state" for custody matters.
Courts in the home state have jurisdiction over custody litigation involving that child -- and the courts of the child's home state are the only ones that can hear a custody case for that child.
Seeking treatment and making progress, however, does not mean a parent must receive custody.
The court must consider what impact the parent's problems will have on the child in deciding what custody arrangements will be in the child's best interests.