Many divorced parents face difficult decisions about whether to take new jobs that will require moving to a new home, and sometimes to a new city and state. Prior to family law changes that took place in Illinois a couple of years ago, the process of relocation (or moving with a child) was discussed in terms of “removal.” Generally speaking, in order to move with a child before Illinois made significant changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the custodial parent would ask the court to grant a removal request. Now that Illinois no longer uses the term “child custody” and focuses on the importance of the parent-child relationship for both parents, moving with a child works differently.
In order to understand how relocation works, it is important to understand how the statute defines relocation. Under the IMDMA, relocation can mean any of the following:
Relocation does not need to become an issue if one parent wants to move to another home in Cook County, for example, or to move out of an apartment in Cook County and into a new home in DuPage County that is less than 25 miles from the Cook County apartment. Rather, relocation becomes an issue when a parent wants to move a relatively long distance away, or out of state, with the child.
To think through the process of relocation, we want to provide you with a hypothetical situation: Parent A and Parent B share nearly equal parenting time, but the child’s primary residence is with Parent A, and the child attends school in the district connected to Parent A’s home. Both Parent A and Parent B live in the Chicago area, but Parent A receives a job offer to move to Seattle, Washington. Parent A wants to take the job and to move to Seattle with the child. As you can see, this clearly falls under one of the IMDMA’s definitions of relocation. Can Parent A make this move?
If the parents filed a parenting plan (allocating parental responsibilities themselves rather than the court doing so), then the parenting plan must have had a “provisions for resolving issues arising from a parent’s future relocation.” If a parenting plan exists, the Parent A and Parent B will need to resolve the relocation issue according to those terms. If there is no parenting plan and the court allocated parental responsibilities, then the court views this as a “substantial change in circumstances” and a reason to request a modification of parental responsibilities.
In order to relocate, Parent A would need to provide at least 60 days’ written notice prior to the relocation, as well as other information about the relocation plans. If Parent B agrees to the relocation, the court can sign off on it. If Parent B objects, however, then the court will determine whether the relocation is in the child’s best interests and thus whether to modify parenting responsibilities.
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