Relocations have long been a thorny issue in Chicago family law matters. One the one hand, judges like stable situations and generally abhor child disruptions. On the other hand, relocations are part of life. Most people move eleven times in their adult lifetimes. As most of these moves occur before age 40, most of them involve divorce/parenting time issues.
In 2016, lawmakers significantly overhauled the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. As part of these changes, they replaced the pejorative term “child removal” with the more neutral-sounding “parental relocation.” That adjustment changes the tenor of this entire section, and there were some other big changes, as well.
In most cases, the relocating residential parent must give the other parent notice of a proposed move at least 60 days before the moving date. The judge may waive or shorten this period in certain situations. For example, a family member might suddenly fall seriously ill or the residential parent may want the move to be secret for security reasons.
Distance also affects the notice requirement. Strictly local moves, like from one side of town to the other, normally do not require consent. But the relocating parent must provide notice if the new residence is:
If the non-relocating parent signs the notice, that is the end of the matter. However, it is very important for the filing party to file the signed notice with the court. Otherwise, the other spouse’s agreement is unenforceable. If the non-relocating parent does not sign or explicitly refuses to consent, the relocating parent must move to step two.
In a motion to modify, the moving party has the burden of proof to show that the proposed relocation is in the best interests of the children. Note that proving the move is in the best interests of the parent is insufficient. Instead, the motion should focus on the children.
For example, the new residence might be closer to family, which means more emotional support. Or, the new residence might be in a better school district. Or, the new school might be larger (or smaller). Additionally, the children may agree to the relocation in a writing filed with the court.
There may also be a trickle-down effect. The motion can still stress the move’s benefits for the parent. But these benefits must be framed in the context of the children’s best interests. For example, if the relocation is job-related, the parent could argue that the higher pay means a better standard of living for the children.
Contested modifications are difficult to settle out of court. Relocations are an either/or proposition. The judge either grants permission to move or the judge withholds that permission. Still, there is usually room for compromise. For example, the relocating parent could agree to longer visitation periods if the other parent drops his/her opposition.
The streamlined relocation procedure is more family friendly, but it also gives both parents a voice in the process. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Chicago, contact the Arami Law Office, P.C. We routinely handle matters in Cook County and nearby jurisdictions.
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