There is no question about it: today’s world is more connected than it has ever been at any other point in human history. Digital and internet technology have made it not only possible but commonplace for us to connect with friends and family members instantly — regardless of where on the planet they live! It has also never been easier to travel from one side of the globe to the other. These and other factors have essentially shrunk the world for most people. Therefore, an increasing number of people more willing to seek new opportunities that might take them from where they were born and raised.
When you are single and have no children, the choice to pack up and move to a new state — or even a new city — is yours to make. It might be intimidating to start over in a place where you do not know many people, but there is nothing stopping you from doing so. When you are married and have a family, the logistics of moving might be more daunting, but you can still move as you see fit. What about when you are divorced and have primary custodial responsibilities for your children? Are you still allowed to move whenever and wherever you want? Well, if you live in Illinois, you might be allowed to move out of the area to pursue new opportunities, but there are a few things that you are required to do first.
Can I Relocate With My Child During an Illinois Divorce?
According to Illinois state law, parents seeking a divorce are expressly encouraged to cooperate in creating a plan for parenting their children together following their divorce. This parenting plan is intended to lay out the rights and responsibilities of each parent. In essence, it is a negotiated custody agreement. Illinois law specifies certain elements that a parenting plan must include, such as which parent’s address will be used for school enrollment, how parenting time will be split, and how the parents will make important decisions for the child.
If you are getting divorced and you cannot seem to reach an agreement with your spouse on a parenting plan, the court will get involved. You and your spouse will each submit a proposal, and the court will either approve one or compile a new plan that takes elements from both proposals. The court will make its decisions while prioritizing the best interests of your child. Once the plan is approved—or ordered—by the court, it becomes enforceable by law.
Substantial Changes in Circumstances
Illinois law recognizes that families and situations change over time. As changes occur, the original parenting plan that was approved by the court may no longer match the current situation. With this in mind, Illinois allows parenting plans to be changed whenever there is a” substantial change in circumstances” for the child or either parent. The law also states that when a parent with at least half of the parenting time with his or her child moves a significant distance, the move is automatically considered a significant change in circumstances. This means that such a move requires the parenting plan to be updated, which may require the court’s approval.
Rather than leaving the definition of a “significant distance” vague and open to interpretation, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5) uses and defines the word “relocation” to describe any move that necessitates the updating of your parenting plan. Mileage limits are also statutorily prescribed. By law, a relocation is:
- A move by a parent with his or her child from a current residence in DuPage County, Cook County, Kane County, McHenry County, Lake County, or Will County to a new residence in Illinois that is more than 25 miles away.
- A move by a parent with his or her child from a current residence in any other county in Illinois to a new residence in Illinois that is more than 50 miles away.
- A move by a parent with his or her child from a current residence in Illinois to a new residence in another state and more than 25 miles away.
For the relocation rules to apply, the parent must be subject to an Illinois parenting plan and have at least half of the parenting time. The mileage measurements are based on internet mapping services, such as Google Maps.
Making Your Move
If you have decided to pursue a move that constitutes a relocation, you must do a few things before you can go. First, you will need to give the other parent written notice of your move at least 60 days in advance of your move date. Your parenting plan may require more notice, and you must abide by the terms to which you have agreed. If giving 60-days’ notice is not possible due to the circumstances, you must give as much notice as possible. You also need to file your notice with the clerk of the county circuit court where you live.
Your notice must include:
- The intended date of the move
- Where you are moving to, including the address if available
- How long you intend to stay there, or whether the move is permanent
The other parent has the choice to sign the notice and give his or her approval to your desired move. If he or she does so, all you will need to do is file the signed notice with the court, and you are free to move. You and your former partner will then need to update your parenting plan to account for the new distance between you. If your child’s other parent will not sign the notice, or the two of you cannot agree on how to modify your parenting plan, you will not be allowed to move without getting approval from the court.
Building Your Case
Convincing the court to allow you to move will require proving that the relocation will ultimately serve the best interests of your child. You will also need to demonstrate that you have good faith reasons for wanting to move, and you are not just trying to keep your child away from the other parent. (If the other parent presents a threat to your child in any way, that should be handled with a different request to the court.)
When considering your request for a relocation, the court will take many factors into account, including:
- Why you want to relocate
- Why your ex objects to the relocation
- Each parent’s relationship with your child
- Employment and education opportunities at the current location and the new location
- Whether extended family is present or absent in both locations
- Your child’s thoughts on the move, taking into account the child’s understanding and maturity
- Your willingness to foster a continued relationship between your child and the other parent
- Anything else the court finds to be in the best interests of your child
Your relocation petition will only be approved by the court if your parenting plan is modified appropriately.
Seek Legal Guidance
If you are going through an Illinois divorce and looking to relocate so that you can take advantage of an educational or professional opportunity, it is important to enlist the help of a qualified attorney. A lawyer is all the more important if you expect your former partner to contest your intended move. To learn more, contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney. It is the least you can to help you and your child build the future that you both deserve.