Understanding Illinois Child Relocation Laws Post-Divorce
In the aftermath of a divorce, the well-being of any children involved is paramount. In Illinois, as in many states, the legal framework governing child relocation is designed to balance the interests of the custodial parent with the rights of the non-custodial parent and, above all, with the best interests of the child.
What Constitutes Relocation?
In Illinois law, relocation is defined based on the distance from the child's current primary residence. For residents of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will counties, relocation is moving more than 25 miles to a new home within Illinois or moving any distance across state lines. For residents outside these counties, relocation means moving more than 50 miles within Illinois or moving more than 25 miles to another state.
Legal Requirements for Relocation
When a custodial parent plans to relocate with a child, they must provide written notice to the non-custodial parent at least 60 days before the move. This notification must include details such as the intended new address (if known), the anticipated date of relocation, and information about any changes to visitation schedules.
If the non-custodial parent agrees to the relocation and adjusts parenting time accordingly, both parties can sign the notice and file it with the court. However, if there is disagreement or the non-custodial parent objects to the move, then the custodial parent must petition for court approval before relocating.
The Court's Consideration
The court considers several factors when deciding on a relocation request:
- The circumstances and reasons for the intended relocation
- The reasons for objection from the non-custodial parent
- The history and quality of each parent's relationship with the child
- The educational opportunities for the child at both locations
- The presence or absence of extended family at both locations
- The anticipated impact on the child's physical, emotional, and educational development
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the child and non-relocating parent through visitation arrangements
- The child's preference, taking into account their age and maturity
- Any other factor bearing on the child's best interest
Notably, in In re Marriage of Collingbourne (2002), an Illinois appellate court upheld that a custodial parent's desire to relocate must be weighed against potential detriments to the child's relationship with the other parent.
Historical Reference - The Eckert Case
A significant historical reference in Illinois relocation law is In re Marriage of Eckert (1988), where an Illinois Supreme Court decision set precedent by denying a mother's request to relocate with her son so that she could remarry and live in California. The court found that such a move would not be in 'the best interests of the child' because it would damage his relationship with his father.
Relocating with a child post-divorce in Illinois involves a careful legal process centered around safeguarding the child's best interests. The courts meticulously examine multiple factors before granting permission for relocation. Parents considering a move must be prepared for this scrutiny and should seek legal counsel to navigate these complex waters.