In today’s world, we are more connected than we have ever been. Digital technology allows us to connect instantly with friends and loved ones virtually anywhere on the planet. In addition, it has never been easier to find ways to travel the globe. These factors and many others have effectively shrunk the world for many people. As a result, more and more individuals are willing and able to look outside of their hometowns for new opportunities.
If you are a single person with no children, making the decision to move to a new city or state can be intimidating, but you have the freedom to up and go whenever you choose. If you are married with a family, you still have the freedom to move, but the logistics are much more complicated. But, what if you are divorced, and you have primary custody of your child (or children)? Can you still move wherever and whenever you choose? If you live in the state of Illinois, there are a number of things that you will need to do before you are allowed to relocate with your child.
Illinois Parenting Plans
When parents in Illinois get divorced, state law encourages them to work together in developing a cooperative parenting plan. This plan outlines each parent’s rights and responsibilities regarding their children. It is, in essence, a negotiated child custody arrangement. When you develop a parenting plan in Illinois, you and your former partner must reach an agreement on a number of considerations, including how you will make important decisions about the child’s life, how the two of you will share parenting time, and many others.
If, for whatever reason, you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement on a parenting plan, the court will intervene. Then, you and the other parent will each submit a proposed parenting plan. The court may approve one of them or put together a new plan that includes elements of both. The court’s primary consideration is always serving the best interests of the child. Whether you have developed a joint parenting plan cooperatively, or one was set up by the court, once the plan is approved by the court, it becomes legally enforceable.
Relocations and Parenting Plan Modifications
As time goes by, opportunities may arise that would require you to move to a new city or state. If you have at least half of the parenting time with your child, moving a significant distance will generally require your parenting plan to be amended to reflect your new situation. Essentially, Illinois law sees such a move as a “substantial change in circumstances,” which is an acceptable basis for modifying a parenting plan. This also means that a move of this type will require the approval of the court.
Instead of leaving up to the parents or the court to decide what a “significant distance” is in terms of moving with your child, the law defines and uses the term “relocation” to describe a move that requires the amendment of your parenting plan. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5), a relocation statutorily constitutes a substantial change in a family’s circumstances and is defined as one of the following moves:
- A move with your child from your present home in Kane County, Cook County, DuPage County, Lake County, McHenry County, or Will County to a new home in Illinois that is more than 25 miles away.
- A move with your child from your present home in any other Illinois county to a new home in Illinois that is more than 50 miles away.
- A move with your child from your present home anywhere in Illinois to a new home outside of Illinois that is more than 25 miles away.
The law also specifies that the distances are “as measured by an Internet mapping service.”
What You Need to Do
Once you have made the decision to relocate with your child, there are several things that you must do. First, you must provide written notice of your intended move to the other parent at least 60 days before the anticipated date of your move. If your parenting plan requires more advance notice, you will need to abide by those terms. The 60-day requirement may be waived if your situation makes such notice impossible, but you still need to give notice as soon as you can. Your notice also needs to be filed with the clerk of the circuit court in your county. In your notice, you must include:
- The date that you plan to move
- The address of the new residence, if you know it
- The length of your intended relocation, including if it is meant to be permanent or indefinite
Your child’s other parent will then have the opportunity to sign the notice granting his or her consent to your intended relocation. If he or she does agree to the move, you will need to file the signed notice with the court, and the court will typically approve the relocation, as long as a judge decides that it would be in the child’s best interests. You and the other parent must then modify your parenting plan to accommodate the new distance between your homes. If the other parent refuses to sign the notice (or you cannot reach an agreement on the modification of your parenting plan), your only remaining option is to petition the court for permission to relocate.
Convincing the Court
In order to convince the court to allow your relocation, you will need to show that the intended move serves your child’s overall best interests. You must also show that your plan to move is in good faith, and not simply meant to separate your child from the other parent. When deciding on your request, the court will take into account:
- Your reasons for wanting to move
- The other parent’s reasons for objecting to the move
- The relationship that each of you has with your child
- Educational opportunities for your child at both the new location and your current location
- The presence or absence of extended family at both locations
- How the relocation will affect your child
- Your child’s wishes, based on his or her maturity and understanding of the situation
- Whether a reasonable parenting arrangement is possible following the relocation
- Your willingness to facilitate the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Any other factors the court finds to be relevant to your child’s best interests
The court will only approve your petition to relocate if there is a corresponding modification to your parenting plan.
Get the Help You Need
If you have a professional or educational opportunity that requires you to relocate, and your child’s other parent is objecting to your move, the road ahead is going to be challenging. Contact an experienced family law attorney to get the guidance you need and the skilled representation you deserve. You owe it yourself and your child to build the best possible future for you both.
About Author: Tricia D. Goostree knew she wanted to be an attorney when she was 10 years old. After being accepted to the John Marshall Law School with a Dean’s Scholarship, Tricia added excellent writing skills to her love of working in the courtroom. Tricia is the founder and managing partner of family law attorney in Kane County, Illinois (Goostree Law Group, P.C. in St. Charles, Illinois).