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Illinois Child Relocation Law | When Is A Move Considered Relocation?

Updated on
October 23, 2020
Article written by
Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss the guidelines described in the Illinois Relocation Law and answer the following questions:


  • What is considered a “non-relocation” move under Illinois Relocation Law?
  • What is considered “relocation” under Illinois Relocation Law?
  • How does the court decide whether to let the parent relocate or not?


In the article “How To Keep Your Ex-Spouse From Moving Out Of State With Your Child,” we discussed the general procedure for relocation of a parent and child under a shared parenting order. However, the specific laws determining whether a move is considered a relocation or “merely moving” are more nuanced and require a closer examination. It may be that a parent living in Illinois wants to move to another state with the child, but geographically they’ll be just across the border. What factors determine whether a move is truly a relocation and subject to the rules set forth in the Illinois Relocation Law? 


A parent looking to relocate should be aware of the Illinois Relocation Law and the factors that will ultimately govern the court’s decision. However, if the parent has less than equal parenting time according to the original court order governing the parenting time, that parent is free to move where he or she pleases. Whether the new address is far away within the same state or across the country, if the moving parent is the noncustodial parent it is on him or her to maintain their parenting time.


What Is Considered A “non-relocation” move Under Illinois Relocation Law?


When considering a move the moving parent should first refer to their Parenting Plan (divorce order, child custody order, etc) to make sure they understand what they are legally required to do to avoid violating the court order they have with the other parent. This is separate from the rules listed under the Illinois Relocation Law. For example, while unlikely, the parenting plan may have contained a clause requiring that any move, for any distance, even just down the block, requires the consent of the other parent. Again, while this is highly unlikely, it highlights the need to thoroughly understand the legal agreement between the parents. 


So, how does one know if they trigger the relocation provision under the Illinois Relocation Law? Well, the good news is that the law is fairly clear and even gives us exact distances.


A parent moves to a new “non-relocation” address if it is:


  • Less than 25 miles from the child’s current primary residence in Cook, McHenry, Dupage, Will, Kane or Lake Counties;
  • Less than 50 miles from the child’s current primary residence in any other Illinois county; or
  • An address outside of Illinois, but still within 25 miles of the child’s primary residence.


These miles are measured via an “internet mapping service” and not a straight line. Furthermore, it depends on the county you are moving from. For example, if you are moving from one of the 6 counties listed above to a county outside of those, you must still follow the 25-mile rule. 


What Is Considered A Relocation Under Illinois Relocation Law?


As you can probably guess, a relocation is any distance above the “non-relocation” rules:


  • More than 25 miles from the child current primary residence in Cook, McHenry, Dupage, Will, Kane, or Lake Counties;
  • More than 50 miles from the child’s current primary residence in any other Illinois county; or
  • An address outside of Illinois, and greater than 25 miles from the child’s primary residence.


How Does The Court Decide Whether To Let The Parent Relocate Or Not?


The burden of proof is on the relocating parent to show that the move is what’s best for the child. The judge will decide, based on arguments from both parents, what is in the best interest of the child. If the judge concludes that the relocation is what’s best, he or she will issue a new custody and visitation order that aligns realistically with the knew residence of the child. Normally, if a custody and visitation order already exists, the parents must wait two years before modifying the order unless a substantial change of circumstances has occurred. A relocation qualifies as a substantial change, and the court will consider the follow factors when deciding if the parent can move:


  • The history and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child and whether there has been any failure to uphold parental responsibility;
  • The educational opportunities available to the child and the current location and the new location;
  • The reasoning behind the new move (needs to be more than just a desire to move);
  • Why the other parent objects to the move;
  • The presence, or lack thereof, of extended family in the current location versus new location;
  • The amount of resources available to each parent in their current location versus moving;
  • What the new parenting responsibilities will look like after the move;
  • The child’s wishes, if he or she is of the appropriate age to communicate them.
  • The new location’s educational, recreational and spiritual resources
  • What kind of financial impact the move with having the the child and the parent (a parent should not be expected to give up a career if a move is required)
  • Whether the move will substantially diminish the parent-child relationship for the non-moving parent; and
  • Any other factors or information that may be relevant to the child’s best interest.


Both parents will have their time to make their arguments, presence information and cross-examine any witnesses. At the end of the hearing the judge will decide whether to grant or deny the relocation petition. A well constructed argument, with the right evidence and witnesses can make the difference between the relocation being granted and denied. Whatever your desired outcome, a good family law attorney can help you achieve your goal.


Illinois Child Relocation Law | When Is A Move Considered Relocation?
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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