JOSHUA A. McCORMICK, Appellee,
ALEXUS N. ROBERTSON, Appellant
Ronald S. Langacker, of Urbana, for appellant.
Paul R. Wilson, Jr., of Rantoul, for appellee.
JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] At issue on this appeal is whether the circuit court of Champaign County erred when it vacated as void a prior " judgment of parentage, custody [and] related matters" and dismissed the father's complaint with prejudice on the grounds that at the time the cause of action was brought, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear and decide it because the provisions of the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (750 ILCS 36/101 et seq. (West 2010)) had not been satisfied. On review, the appellate court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding that compliance with the statute was not a prerequisite to the court's jurisdiction, that the circuit court had possessed subject matter jurisdiction, and that the circuit court therefore erred when it subsequently vacated its earlier ruling as void and dismissed the father's complaint. 2014 IL App. (4th) 140208, 383 Ill.Dec. 802, 15 N.E.3d 968.
We granted leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315(a) (eff. July 1, 2013). For the reasons that follow, we now affirm the judgment of the appellate court.
[¶3] Joshua A. McCormick and Alexus N. Robertson met in Missouri in 2008. McCormick was and remains a resident of Illinois. Robertson was a resident of Missouri. A brief relationship between the two resulted in a child, L.M., who was born in Missouri on April 23, 2009.
[¶4] In early 2010, McCormick filed a complaint in the circuit court of Champaign County pursuant to the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 (750 ILCS 45/1 et seq. (West 2010)) to obtain an order establishing the existence of a father-child relationship with L.M. and to obtain joint custody of the child. McCormick chose Champaign County as the venue because section 9(b) of the Parentage Act (750 ILCS 45/9(b) (West 2010)) allows parentage actions to be brought " in the county in which any party resides or is found," and Champaign County is where McCormick lived.
[¶5] Robertson was furnished with a copy of the complaint on January 15, 2010. Shortly thereafter, she filed a written entry of appearance. That document, prepared by McCormick's attorney and signed by Robertson, stated that Robertson was waiving " all manner of Summons and process" and submitting to the court's jurisdiction.
[¶6] A hearing on McCormick's complaint was held January 19, 2010. Both McCormick and Robertson attended, with Robertson proceeding pro se. During the hearing, the parties represented to the court that they had entered into a written joint parenting agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, McCormick and Robertson were to have joint custody of L.M., with Robertson serving as the primary residential custodian. The agreement also contained a visitation schedule to be implemented upon McCormick's return from active duty military service. The issue of child support was reserved.
[¶7] The parties presented the joint agreement to the court for consideration. On February 8, 2010, the court entered its " judgment of parentage, custody [and] related matters." That ruling found that the court had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter, that McCormick had been domiciled in the state of Illinois for at least 90 days preceding the date of the judgment, that L.M. had been born in Missouri the previous year and that McCormick had voluntarily acknowledged that he was the child's father. The judgment also approved and incorporated by reference the parties' joint parenting agreement. One of the terms of that agreement was that the parties had submitted themselves to " the jurisdiction of the State of Illinois" and that their agreement would be " construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Illinois" unless they otherwise agreed.
[¶8] Following entry of the judgment, McCormick began a tour of duty with the United States Marines Corps. He served in Okinawa, Japan, and Afghanistan, eventually separating from active military duty on June 21, 2012. Upon leaving the service, he was able to visit L.M. frequently. The visitations took place in Missouri, where Robertson continued to reside.
[¶9] Things changed in November 2012. That month, Robertson moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, with her parents and took L.M. with her. McCormick believed that Robertson's actions violated the court's judgment and the terms of the joint parenting agreement incorporated therein and complained that Robertson ...