You have custody of the child, but now you want to move. Perhaps it is for a job opportunity, or to be closer to your parents. Whatever the reason, you need to know what to do.
For short moves, no special permission is required. The exact distance varies by county – 25 miles or less in the Chicago area, 50 miles or less in other Illinois counties.
For longer moves you must seek formal approval.
If your planned relocation involves a greater distance, you must get the other parent to agree (and be sure to get this in writing). Failing that, you would need to turn to the court.
Illinois law requires the court’s approval before relocating with children after a custody order is entered, because it is a massive change in circumstances for the child. You must also provide written notice of the planned relocation to the other parent and receive their written consent.
You will want to review the parenting plan in your allocation judgment (the divorce document that spells out the time each parent will spend with the child and their respective responsibilities). Seeing what parameters are listed, particularly if any of them are restrictive, will make the steps you need to take a little clearer.
The move must be to the child’s benefit.
When seeking permission to relocate a minor, you must prove that the move is to the child’s benefit. Some ways to demonstrate that the relocation will improve the standard of living and best interest of the child can be to show that the new location will provide enhancement of the child’s opportunities in things such as extracurricular activities, schooling, medical care, or social and family support.
Oftentimes, relocation becomes necessary due to a change of employment. If this change of employment means an increase in salary that would provide better opportunities for the child, such as the ability to attend one of the most prestigious schools in the country, that would be something that the judge would take under consideration.
Disruption can be a strong objection to your move.
On the other side, your ex will be able to argue that the relocation could be a disruption of the structure already established or that the child’s relationship with them would be difficult to maintain at the distance.
If you were awarded custody as the primary caregiver and the other party was not very involved in the child’s life, you might be able to make the case that they are only now using the statute as a way of controlling you. This might suggest that the other parent is not putting the child’s best interests first.
If the other party is an actively involved parent, however, it can become very difficult to convince the court that removing the child from their routine of care and their relationship with the other party is a benefit to the child. For instance, if the other parent is coming over every night to read to the child before bed and your relocation will prevent that from happening, you would need a very good argument for the relocation.
All may not be lost if you made your move without following the steps.
Ignorance of the law is not a defense. If you relocate with a child without having followed the applicable state law, you could lose custody, be fined tens of thousands of dollars, or be prosecuted for kidnapping. For this reason, it is important to review your allocation judgment and state law prior to any relocation.
If you have relocated your child without first obtaining permission from the court or consent from the other parent, you may still be able to salvage your situation in court. You would need to petition the court for post-approval and show that you would have prevailed if you had filed a motion on time originally.
Judges in family law courts are given a great deal of individual discretion when deciding these matters. The facts can be open to interpretation, and a judge can be persuaded to grant your relocation if your case is presented in a convincing manner. The judge has this leeway because family situations can vary so greatly.
If this is your situation, you will want to hire an experienced attorney to help you with your case. The attorney will know what the relevant factors are, what sort of evidence the judge is going to be looking for, how to present those factors and evidence, and what testimony will most likely persuade the judge that you are right.
To sum up, before moving with the child you have custody of, obtain the court’s approval and the other parent’s written consent. Failure to do so will complicate your situation. However, you could still prevail if you can present the situation in a favorable light to the court.
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