What Might Happen if One Parent Wants to Relocate with the Children After a Divorce in Illinois?

There’s little doubt that the idea of one parent locating with the children after a divorce can strike fear into the other parent’s heart, especially if the new location is a significant distance away.

During the divorce, the parents had to come to terms with a parenting time arrangement (previously referred to as physical child custody) in which they determine who would have the children living with them when and for how long. If one parent relocates, that can cause the previously agreed-upon arrangement to no longer work. Illinois law reflects how fraught this situation can be. If one parent wants to move the children 25 miles within specific counties, more than 50 miles in the rest of Illinois, or out of state, the law requires the relocating parent to get approval from the other parent. This must happen regardless of whether the parents share equal parenting time or if one parent has the child the majority of the time. The relocating parent must also follow specific procedures:

  • Provide written notice. The relocating parent must give the other parent notice of the intent to move at least 60 days before the moving date and a copy of the notice should be sent to the circuit court clerk. The notice must include the intended moving date, newaddress, and how long the relocation will last, whether presumably permanently or temporarily. If the other parent agrees, they must sign the notice, and then the relocating parent will file it with Illinois family courts. 
  • Court review. Suppose both parents agree and the court thinks the relocation is still in the child’s best interests (always the priority concern). They will likely sign off on the modification of the parenting time arrangement in that case. But if the parents don’t agree or the non-relocating parent doesn’t sign the notice, the parent who wants to relocate has to petition the court for permission to proceed with the move. The court will take a closer look at whether or not that’s in the child’s best interests. Many factors may play into their final decision:
    • Why the move is being proposed (for example, the parent is taking a new, better-paying job)
    • Why the parent staying objects to having the children move
    • How far away the new hometown is
    • How educational opportunities in the new location compare to those in the existing location
    • Whether or not there is extended family in the new location
    • Each parent’s relationship with the child and how those relationships will be affected by the move
    • How the move affects the parent who’s not moving in terms of being able to have time with their child that’s similar to what they had when both parents were in the same town
    • Depending on the age and maturity of the child involved, their wishes and preferences may be taken into account

Whether you’re the parent who wants to relocate or the parent who’s not moving and objects to the other parent relocating, working with an experienced divorce and parenting time arrangement attorney is vital. These are complex cases with many variables, some of which can be unpredictable. 

Are There Any Exceptions to Needing Court Approval for Relocation?

There are a few exceptions. If you’re unclear if any of these apply to your situation, contact a family law attorney as soon as possible to avoid inadvertently making an illegal mistake.
Children living in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will County aren’t required to have court approval to move 25 miles or less, even if it’s across state lines (as long as the 25 miles isn’t exceeded).

Children living in counties other than those specified above don’t need court approval if their move is less than 50 miles or 25 miles or less but crosses state lines.

What Happens if a Parent Relocates Without Permission from the Other Parent or the Court?

This may happen in a couple of different ways. The relocating parent may pick up and move without following legal protocols, but that can lead to significant legal trouble. Even if the relocating parent believes it’s in the child’s best interests, the court may not agree. The result could be criminal charges (kidnapping) and potential loss of any custody in the future.

Other times, the relocating parent may need to move to start a new job and relocate before the notice period is over or the court has signed off on it. Especially in cases where the other parent objects, the relocating parent may be held in contempt of court or face criminal charges. At a minimum, the court is likely to order the child to return to the original hometown to stay with the non-relocating parent while the court considers the case.

What Should I Do if I Need Help with a Child Custody Case Involving Possible Relocation?

Call the Law Offices of Robert Buchanan at 312-757-4833 for a no-obligation case evaluation. Negotiating parenting time arrangements for finalizing a divorce can be incredibly stressful. Having to renegotiate because one of the parents wants to relocate with the children can be even more so. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable divorce and parenting time arrangement attorneys understands how difficult this time is for you. We can review the specifics of your case and offer approaches to lead to the best possible outcomes.