Relocation and child custody arrangements in Illinois

Article provided by Jeffery M. Leving.

It is not uncommon for a parent to relocate. Perhaps a new professional opportunity has presented itself or one suddenly has a desire to be closer to family, or the custodial parent wants to abscond with the child - whatever the reason, parents who are subject to a custody arrangement cannot simply move their children. Even in the most amicable of situations, state law requires parents to follow certain steps before making the move, unless there's a court order to the contrary.

How can a parent relocate with children when subject to a child custody agreement?

Family law is a creature of state law, so the state of primary residence makes a difference in how the process unfolds. This information is tailored for parents with a child who has a primary residence in Illinois.

It is important to understand what the courts in the state will consider a relocation. The definition varies depending on the county of the child's primary residence. Illinois state law defines relocation as:

  1. A change of residence from the child's current primary residence located in the county of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry or Will to a new residence within this state that is more than 25 miles from the child's current residence, as measured by an internet mapping service;
  2. A change of residence from the child's current primary residence located in a county not listed in paragraph (1) to a new residence within this state that is more than 50 miles from the child's current primary residence as measured by an internet mapping service; or
  3. A change of residence from the child's current primary residence to a residence outside the borders of this state that is more than 25 miles from the current primary residence, as measured by an internet mapping service.

In most situations, state law requires a parent considering any move that falls within one of these definitions to provide written notice to the other parent and the applicable circuit court. Unless impracticable, the law requires the moving parent provide this written document with at least 60 days' notice to the non-moving parent. The notice must generally include the intended date of the move and the intended location of the new residence.

Courts often allow the relocation with minimal interference when the non-moving parent signs an agreed order. As such, it is important parents carefully read official documents before signing.

What if a parent objects to a relocation request?

If parents do not agree to the request, the parent seeking relocation must file a petition seeking permission to relocate with the court. The court will then review the request and take the best interest of the child into consideration when making its decision. This often includes a review of the reason for the requested move, the reasons for the objection to the move, the history and quality of time each parent has spent with the child, and all other relevant testimony and evidence.

The court's decision should be based on the testimony and evidence presented by each party. It is wise for those who are fighting a relocation request to seek legal counsel with experience in this unique area of family law.