Judge takes action to move multi-state custody battle along

When a custody battle expands across more than one state, it can be incredibly complicated to get any kind of forward progress.

A custody battle that has been playing out in the courts of both Illinois and Massachusetts has pushed an Illinois judge into taking action. She has now issued a subpoena in the case to a county sheriff. The judge is seeking more clarity regarding how the civil contempt warrant for a father's arrest can be enforced across state lines.

Meanwhile, the father of the child involved seems to be biding his time in Massachusetts. He may be waiting on the ruling on his motion to have that state take emergency jurisdiction over the custody case. The father left Illinois with his 4-year-old son in 2017, shortly after he was awarded custody. However, he did so without the Illinois court's permission.

Now the father claims that interrupting the child's therapy in order to return him to Illinois would be detrimental to his emotional health and run counter to the "best interests of the child" standard that is paramount in any custody case. He claims the therapy was necessary due to the mother's abusive behavior during a period when she was using drugs.

Despite his objections to the interruption of therapy, the Illinois court expected the father to return. Since he has failed to comply with six orders from the court to come to custody proceedings, Illinois has given custody of the child back to the mother -- whose rights have been fully restored -- and issued a warrant for the father's arrest.

Initially, the McLean County Sheriff's Department expected to be able to work with police in Massachusetts to make the arrest and return the father and child to Illinois. However, problems in the way that a warrant connected to a civil offense is processed have delayed the case once again.

The difficulties in this case illustrate some of the complex issues that can arise when a parent relocates to another state with a child in the midst of a custody dispute. Even a brief disruption in a parent's custody and visitation rights can set into motion legal maneuvers that are difficult to overcome. That's one reason it is always important to seek legal advice if you intend to relocate with your child following a divorce.

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