When a divorced or separated parent who has physical custody of the child(ren) wants to relocate, he or she is required to give at least sixty (60) days’ prior written notice of the change of residence (“relocation”) to the other parent, unless such notice is impracticable or unless otherwise ordered by the court. See 750 ILCS 5/609.2(d). This notice must contain the proposed date of change of residence, the new address, and the length of time the relocation will last if it is not a permanent move. If a parent fails to comply with the notice requirement, without good cause, then the court may consider this in determining whether the parent’s relocation is in good faith. If it is not in good faith, it can be denied. Additionally, the lack of good faith can result in awarding reasonable attorney’s fees and costs resulting from the parent’s failure to comply with the notice provision of the statute.
Once the notice is complied with, the non-relocating parent must consent or object to the relocation. If the non-relocating parent signs the notice (consents to the relocation) and files it with the court, the relocation is permitted, and the court will modify the parenting plan, under the condition that the change to the plan is within the child’s best interest. However, if the non-relocating parent contests (or objects) to the relocation, the parent seeking to relocate must file a Petition to Relocate, seeking permission from a judge to relocate.
In determining whether to grant the relocation, the court will look at the Petition, keeping in mind the best interest of the child, which is paramount to any decision. See In re Marriage of Collingbourne, 204 Ill.2d 498 (2003). These vary for each individual case. See In re Marriage of Sobol, 342 Ill.App.3d 623 (4th Dist. 2003). These factors include:
- the circumstances and reasons for the intended relocation;
- the reasons, if any, why a parent is objecting to the intended relocation;
- the history and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child and specifically whether a parent has substantially failed or refused to exercise the parental responsibilities allocated to him or her under the parenting plan or allocation judgment;
- the educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
- the presence of absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
- the anticipated impact of the relocation on the child;
- whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable allocation of parental responsibilities between all parents if the relocation occurs;
- the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to relocation;
- possible arrangement for the exercise of parental responsibilities appropriate to the parents’ resources and circumstances and the developmental level of the child;
- minimization of the impairment to a parent-child relationship caused by a parent’s relocation; and
- any other relevant factors bearing on the child’s best interest.
Application of the Law/Cases
The best way to see how the statute is applied is to look at a few case examples. Below, you will see a discussion of several cases and how and why the judge ruled the way he did.
In re Marriage of Adams, 2017 IL App (3d) 170472 (3rd Dist. 2017)
In this case, the mother had relocated. The court decided that the relocation was not appropriate. In its decision, the court considered the significant visitation schedule the father had with the children prior to the relocation, the new increased distance between the parents’ homes and the difficulty in transportation, the educational opportunities for the children, and the fact that the children had a close relationship with the father’s family where the father resided and none in the mother’s new location.
In re Marriage of Sobol, 342 Ill.App.3d 623 (4th Dist. 2003)
In this case, the father was going to have to relocate, per a settlement agreement signed by the parties, but the appellate court said he could stay in Illinois. The court stated that five factors should be considered in a relocation request. These include: (1) whether the proposed move will enhance the quality of life for both the custodial parent and the children, (2) whether the proposed move is a ruse designed to frustrate or defeat the noncustodial parent’s visitation, (3) the motives of the noncustodial parent in resisting removal, (4) the visitation rights of the noncustodial parent, and (5) whether a reasonable visitation schedule can be worked out.
In re Marriage of Collingbourne, 204 Ill.2d 498 (2003)
This is a Supreme Court of Illinois case, the highest court. Here, the court permitted a mother to move out of state since it was in the best interest of the child based on the fact that it would enable the mother to marry her fiancé, which would enhance their quality of life, since the mother could obtain a better paying job that would have flexible hours and would allow her to take child to school and pick him up from school; the child would live in a house rather than an apartment; the child would not have to go to daycare and could become involved in extra-curricular activities; and the mother’s proposed visitation arrangement for child and father provided father with as much time with child as he had when father and child lived in the same state.
In re P.D., 2017 IL App (2d) 170355 (2nd Dist. 2017)
In this case, the court ultimately held that the mother could not relocate with the child. The burden on the appealing party in a relocation case is based on the manifest weight of the evidence. Here, the decision to not let the mother relocate was not against the manifest weight of the evidence where the mother sought to relocate due to her new husband’s employment, but her new husband’s employment contract indicated that it was anticipated that he would reside in Illinois and also spend time at his employer’s office out of state; the father had a close relationship with child and was concerned the relationship would suffer if mother was allowed to relocate with child; all of child’s grandparents and step-grandparents resided in Illinois; the parties had a history of poor communication which would likely negatively impact the child’s relationship with the father; and the mother expressed reluctance to assist father in determining whether arrangements for exercising his parental responsibilities out of state were possible. The court refused her relocation even though mother’s new husband would earn $450,000 annually, according to mother, and father earned $100,000. This case illustrates that the lifestyle of the child, if the move is allowed, does not outweigh other factors, mostly factors relating to the child’s relationship with the parent remaining in state (the father in this case).
These cases show that cases are extremely fact specific. They also show how the best interest of the child is paramount to a decision to relocate, and how the factors relate to the best interest of the child. Lastly, the cases demonstrate how courts evaluate the factors listed above. I hope this post gives you a greater understanding of the law on relocation in Illinois.