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How To Keep Your Ex-Spouse From Moving Out Of State With Your Child

Updated on
October 22, 2020
Article written by
Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we will discuss what happens if a parent sharing child custody wants to move away and take the child with them or at least maintain the current parenting time. We will answer the following questions:


  • What Are The General Legal Qualifications For A Relocation?
  • What Are Your Options If The Other Parent Wants To Move?
  • What Happens If The Parent Leaves Without Getting Consent?


Negotiating child custody and parenting time is often the most stressful portion of divorce proceedings. Examples abound of parents not thinking clearly and basing decisions on their emotions versus what is best for the child. Thankfully, there is the added layer of scrutiny by the court in determining what is in the best interest of the child. But imagine if one parent wants to get up and move out-of-state or across the country. The difficulty this poses on parenting time, the right of first refusal, and maintaining a stable environment for the child is clear. Furthermore, there are significant legal hurdles involved with moving a child beyond a certain number of miles in Illinois. Again, the court will ultimately decide on whether the move is in the best interest of the child, but if you suddenly receive a notification that your child’s parent wants to move there are a few things you should know.


What Are The General Legal Qualifications For A Relocation?


The other parent cannot simply pack up everything, including your child, and move far away, this would be considered parental kidnapping. Before a potential move is considered legal, the moving parent must meet a few legal requirements, including sending you a document that contains the following information:


  • The proposed moving date;
  • Their new address;
  • If they intend to stay at the new location permanently or temporarily. If temporary, the notice must include the length of time they plan to stay


This information must be communicated to you in writing a minimum of 60 days before the move unless circumstances make that impossible or the other parent has a court order indicating something different. 


Once you receive the notice you can consent to the move and sign the document or refuse to sign and indicate you intend to fight the move in court. Either way, the other parent must inform the court of your decision. If you oppose the move, a court date will be set where you and the other parent will make your arguments and the judge will decide whether the move is appropriate or not.


What Are Your Options If The Other Parent Wants To Move?

Assuming that the other parent is moving beyond the legal distance that triggers a relocation, the move is only allowed to happen if you agree to it or the court overrules your objection and allows the relocation to move forward. 


If you object to the move, the other parent can either (1) agree not to move with your child or (2) send a relocation petition to the court. If the other parent decides to send the relocation petition, the court will set a hearing date where both you and the other parent will meet with the judge and give your arguments, including any relevant evidence. The judge will likely ask several questions, such as:


  • Will this move significantly improve the quality of life for the parent and child?
  • Are there valid reasons for the move? Or does one parent have malicious intentions?
  • What benefits from the move exist to offset the emotional toll on the child?
  • Will the move make it much more difficult for both parents to comply with the current parenting time allotted in the original court order?
  • Is the move likely to make it much more difficult for the other parent to engage in the child’s life? How will it affect the first right of refusal?


The list could go on and on, but what the judge ultimately wants to know is if the move is in the best interest of the child and will it have a long-term positive impact on the child’s life. A good judge will sniff out selfish intentions and quickly shut down any such petition to relocate. 


If the judge does grant the other parent’s petition to relocate, the parents should immediately work to modify the existing custody agreement to reflect the move. 


What Happens If The Parent Leaves Without Getting Consent?


Some parents believe they have the right to leave without a child as they see fit, but if they share parental rights, even if they have a greater amount of parenting time under the child custody agreement, it’s not that simple. If a parent runs off with a child that is considered parental kidnapping, and it doesn’t just apply to relocating long distances. Parental kidnapping can include not returning the child for the other parents agreed-upon parenting time, taking the child on an impromptu vacation, or refusing to return the child after their visitation time has ended. Any of these are considered a violation of the child custody order and may result in a court order, or worse, against the offending parent.


If the parent of your child is petitioning for relocation or you feel has violated their court order, you should seek legal help immediately.


How To Keep Your Ex-Spouse From Moving Out Of State With Your Child
Author

Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

Kevin O’Flaherty is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has experience in litigation, estate planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and comprehensive business representation.

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