The decision whether to relocate or not involves a consideration of many different factors. Employment opportunities, cost of living and family ties are just several of the many reasons people decide to move or stay put. For separated or divorced parents intending to relocate with minor children, another element is added to the decision-making process: will the court allow it?
In Illinois, relocation is defined by 750 ILCS 5/600 as:
- A change of residence from the child’s current primary residence located in the county of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry or Will to a new residence within this State that is more than 25 miles from the child’s current residence, as measured by an Internet mapping service
- A change of residence from the child’s current primary residence located in a county not listed in paragraph (1) to a new residence within this State that is more than 50 miles from the child’s current primary residence, as measured by an Internet mapping service
- A change of residence from the child’s current primary residence to a residence outside the borders of this State that is more than 25 miles from the current primary residence, as measured by an Internet mapping service
The decision to relocate with a minor child can be made by a parent who has been allocated the majority of parenting time or by either parent who has been allocated equal parenting time. The decision is not the parent’s alone, however, as such relocation constitutes a substantial change in circumstances and requires the parent seeking to relocate with the minor to petition the court for a modification of the parenting plan or allocation judgment.
The parent seeking to relocate with the child must provide written notice to the other parent no less than 60 days before the intended relocation, and a copy of the notice must be filed with the clerk of the circuit court. The notice must provide, at a minimum:
- The intended date of the parent’s relocation
- The address of the parent’s intended new residence, if known
- The length of time the relocation will last, if the relocation is not for an indefinite or permanent period. A parent who fails to comply with the notice requirement without a showing of good cause risks the court finding that the intention to relocate is not being done in good faith and could be held responsible for the payment of the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs.
The issue of relocation does not need to be contentious. The parent who is not relocating with the minor can sign the notice and have it filed with the court. In such a case, relocation shall be allowed without any further court action. The court shall modify the parenting plan or allocation judgment to accommodate the agreed relocation, unless the court finds that the relocation is not in the child’s best interest.
The issue becomes contested when the parent not relocating objects to the relocation, does not sign the notice, or when the parents cannot agree on modification of the parenting plan or allocation judgment. When this happens, the parent seeking to relocate must seek permission from the court. The decision by the court to allow or disallow the relocation is made in accordance with the best interests of the minor child. In determining the child’s best interests, the court must consider the following factors enumerated by 750 ILCS 5/602.7(b):
- 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 or 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 arrangements 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
- Any other relevant factors bearing on the child’s best interests
Finally, if a parent moves with the child 25 miles or less from the child’s current primary residence to a new primary residence outside Illinois, Illinois continues to be the home state of the minor. Any subsequent move from the new primary residence outside Illinois greater than 25 miles from the child’s original primary residence in Illinois must be in compliance with the provisions of this Section.