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Chicago parental relocation lawyerWhile getting a divorce is never easy, it is often even more complicated if the divorcing couple has children. When a couple decides to get divorced, it is not entirely uncommon for one of the spouses to move away from where they lived during their marriage. This is often seen as a necessary first step in starting a new beginning and clearing their mind of the heartache they went through during the divorce. While it is true that moving can positively impact someone's mental health post-divorce, you must tread carefully if you are considering taking your child with you.

In Illinois, a parent cannot simply pack all their and their children's things and relocate somewhere far away without first getting the court's permission. Parental relocations are in no way guaranteed or automatic. For example, suppose your ex-spouse wishes to stop you from relocating, and they have been granted a share of the parenting time. In that case, the court will likely conduct a thorough analysis of the situation before reaching any decision. The court's eventual ruling will, in large part, be related to the best interests of the child. So, if you have gotten divorced and are interested in relocating with your child, contact an experienced attorney to ensure your rights remain protected and that the best interests of the child are kept at the forefront of all decisions made. 

How Are the Best Interests of the Child Determined? 

Courts are more likely to grant a parent's relocation request over the objection of the opposing parent only if it is found that the relocation will be in the best interests of the children involved. When determining if the relocation would be in the children's best interests, the court may consider various factors. These factors may include the following:  

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Chicago child custody lawyerFor most parents, their greatest concern in a divorce is not who keeps the living room furniture, but rather, how much time they will get to continue spending with their children. Seeing the other parent obtain sole child custody is often a parent’s worst fear. If your spouse is threatening to pursue sole custody, or to keep the children from seeing you, you should know that this result is highly unlikely unless there is genuine evidence that you are harmful to the children. If no such evidence exists, courts in Illinois immensely favor a parenting time arrangement that allows both parents time with their children.

In most cases, you need not fear that you will never see your children again, regardless of what your spouse says. It is, however, important to promptly speak to an attorney, who can respond to the threat on your behalf and continue working to protect the precious time you share with your children. 

Are Sole Custody Arrangements Common? 

A parent’s rights to spend time with and share decision-making power over the child is not taken away lightly in Illinois. Our local courts are so opposed to sole custody arrangements that they will frequently use supervised visitation even when there is some evidence that a parent is not capable of safely caring for the children alone. 

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skokie child custody lawyerMany recently divorced parents find it helpful to leave the area where they resided during the marriage to seek a new beginning elsewhere. Relocating can have a wonderful effect on the mental health of a newly divorced parent, particularly if the divorce was very challenging or the marriage itself was harmful. However, in Illinois, a parent cannot simply pack their children's belongings and relocate to a faraway area without first obtaining permission from the court. Parental relocations are not automatically granted if the other parent objects. If your former spouse resists the relocation and has been allocated any parenting time, the court is likely to conduct a thorough analysis before reaching a decision. As is true for all family law cases pertaining to children, this issue must be decided in favor of what is in the child’s best interests. It is important to consult an attorney before requesting permission to relocate with children. 

Determining Whether a Relocation is in the Child’s Best Interests

Courts will grant a parent’s request to relocate with the children over the objection of the other parent only if it is established that moving away is in the best interests of the children involved. In determining whether the relocation would be best for the children, the court will consider a number of factors similar to those used in determining an initial parenting plan. Factors considered may include: 

  • Child’s adjustment - How well-adjusted a child is to their current home, school, and community is highly relevant. Courts may be reluctant to remove a child from a neighborhood they are well-acclimated to and involved in. 

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shutterstock_76317310.jpg Divorce and child custody arrangements can be traumatic for a child, but uprooting a child from one city or state to another can elicit another host of traumatizing challenges. Motives such as employment advancement or a better educational opportunity might be a compelling reason for parental relocation. Still, the child's best interest should remain at the forefront of any life-changing decision. According to Illinois law, a parent with 50 percent or more parenting time is permitted to relocate the child without permission from the other parent or the court, so long as the relocation does not exceed a specific radius. 

When a move exceeds a certain radius, it is considered a relocation, necessitating permission from the other parent. If a parental relocation is in dispute, the parent can petition the court. 

Parental Relocation Law 

Effective January 1, 2022, Section 750 ILCS 603.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was amended with Section (a-5). This amendment allows the child's relocation to be temporary until a final judgment is made as long as it serves the child's best interests. The parental responsibilities of the original custody decree, including parenting time and decision-making, remain unchanged throughout the temporary basis of the relocation. This modification benefits the relocating parent by eliminating the waiting period for the court's final decision. Furthermore, Section (a-5) enables the family to temporarily assess how the relocation will affect the child and disputing parent.  

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rolling meadows fathers rights attorneyMany parents experience conflict in their divorce and one of the most contentious areas is often issues related to the children. Parents will often try to compete with each other to be the best parent and sometimes use the children as weapons in a sort of proxy war to “get back” at each other for the hurt they experienced in their marriage. 

For other parents, however, there are legitimate concerns about the parental fitness of their former spouse and concerns about the wellbeing of the child. If you are interested in obtaining the majority of parenting time with your child or being allocated full parental responsibilities, read on.

Illinois No Longer Uses the Concept of “Custody”

Even if a child in Illinois spends all their time with one parent, that parent does not have “full custody” of the child because Illinois no longer uses the term “custody” at all. To allocate the process of childrearing more equitably between parents, Illinois law now uses the terms parenting time and parental responsibilities instead. “Parenting time” describes when a child will be with a specific parent, and “parental responsibilities” describes important decision-making responsibilities on behalf of the child for major issues. 

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