When a parent with custody of a child decides to relocate, it can create issues in a previously settled custody agreement. In Illinois, custodial parents must obtain approval from the court before removing a child from the state or before making certain moves within the state. If the parents of a minor child cannot agree on how this relocation will change custody and visitation schedules on their own or through mediation, opening a relocation case in family court may be necessary.
Courts want to make sure such moves are in the best interests of any children involved. Whether you are a custodial parent looking to move on to new opportunities elsewhere or a non-custodial parent fighting to prevent your child from moving against your wishes, legal representation can help you build a stronger case.
Laws regarding child relocation in Illinois were updated in 2016. Previously, a parent could relocate anywhere within the state without court permission. This meant, for example, that a parent could move their child from a town in northern Illinois to one on the southern end of the state–potentially over 350 miles–without the agreement of the other parent or the permission of the court. On the other hand, a parent living near a state border would need a court order to move just a few miles across the state line.
Under the new law, formal legal action is necessary when planning to relocate a child under three specific circumstances. This is based on where you currently live and where you plan to move:
If you do not fall into any of these categories, you can move your child without getting permission from the court. For example, if you currently live 5 miles away from the Illinois/Wisconsin border and want to move 10 miles away into Wisconsin, you can do so without court approval. If your relocation does fall into any of the three categories above, you will need to follow the legal process to relocate with your child.
Legal cases surrounding divorce and child custody can be emotional and stressful. Even in the best co-parenting relationships, these cases can lead to high tensions. At Vahey & Betouni, we are skilled mediators who can support you and your ex-partner in attempting to come to a resolution regarding relocation without taking the case to court. As mediators, we can help you reach an agreement that is realistic and fair for all parties involved while keeping the best interests of your children in mind. If you and your ex can come to an agreement outside of court, you could save time, reduce costs, and eliminate the stress that accompanies taking a case to trial.
If parents cannot agree on changes to custody, visitation, and relocation, litigation may be required. At this point, both parents will be fighting for what they believe is best for the child and their relationship. Having a lawyer on your side will be crucial to building your case. An attorney can also help you keep your emotions under control by interfacing with the court on your behalf, acting as a buffer between you and an emotionally charged legal process. Losing your temper, getting too heated, or being otherwise seen as overly emotional in front of a judge can be disastrous to your chances for a positive outcome.
If you represent yourself in court, you may find yourself unprepared to answer upsetting allegations designed to bait you into an emotional response. If the other parent has hired an attorney and you have not, you will also find yourself up against legal expertise and sophisticated strategies you simply can’t compete with.
Like any other legal matter, child relocation cases can become complex and time-consuming. Your ex-partner will likely be doing everything they can to build a case in their favor. Our team is knowledgeable and experienced in Illinois family law. We can guide you through the case from start to finish and help you gather evidence to support your case. A relocation lawyer will also be prepared to help dispute any accusations your ex may make about you or your parenting skills. If you are an Illinois parent seeking to relocate and want help preparing a winning case for the court, or if you are a non-custodial parent seeking to keep your child nearby, contact Vahey Law & Mediation, LLC.
There are steps you are legally obligated to follow if you are a custodial parent hoping to move and bring your child with you. This is true whether your divorce is very recent or you have been divorced and co-parenting for years.
The first step when you are planning to move is to provide the other parent with a written notice outlining your plans for relocation at least 60 days before you plan to move. Details must include the date you intend to move, the address of the new residence, and how long the relocation will last (if it isn’t a permanent move). This notice must be given to the non-custodial parent, as well as filed with a district court clerk. If you are concerned for your children’s safety (or your own) in a case where there is a history of abuse or domestic violence, let your attorney know. Courts can protect the victim by keeping this information confidential and waiving the requirement that you notify the other parent directly.
If you are the non-custodial parent receiving a relocation notice, you have 21 days from receipt of the notice to decide whether to consent or object to the move. If you consent, the case will be reviewed by the family court, and new custody and visitation orders will be created and officially implemented. If you object to the relocation and refuse to sign the notice, the custodial parent will need to file a petition with the court asking for permission to move. Just because a parent is not designated as the custodial parent in an initial custody hearing does not mean they should be deprived of their parental rights.
When a non-custodial parent objects and the custodial parent files a petition, the relocation case may then go to a hearing. This is where the representation of an experienced family law attorney can be crucial. During a child relocation hearing, both sides can call and cross-examine witnesses and present evidence to attempt to get the case settled in their favor. Evidence and witnesses could aim to show how good of a parent you are and can also attempt to show the downfalls of the other parent.
Relocating a child can be approved if the move is in the best interest of the child. When determining what is in the best interest of the child, Illinois courts consider several different pieces of information. Some factors a judge might consider include:
If the court determines the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child or children, the request can be denied. This means the custodial parent would not be allowed to move the child as planned. The court may require a transfer of custody to the other parent if the custodial parent goes through with their planned move after being denied by the court.
If a parent moves their child outside of the boundaries set by law without the permission of the court, it is considered parental abduction. Parents who do this are committing a crime that can result in fees, fines, jail time, and changes in custody. If your child has been moved without your consent or court approval, contact Vahey & Betouni Law & Mediation for assistance protecting and exercising your parental rights.
Whether you are hoping to relocate with your child or stop your child from being relocated, we are ready to help through mediation or litigation. We prioritize our clients’ goals and approach every case with compassion. Our lawyers provide legal counsel to empower clients so they can make well-informed decisions throughout their legal battle. Our firm is located in Joliet, Illinois, and we serve clients in Will County and the surrounding areas. Arrange a confidential consultation to discuss your child relocation situation by contacting Vahey & Betouni Law & Mediation today.