History of Removal in Illinois
As our society has become more and more mobile, removal cases have become more and more common. The various appellate districts handled removal cases in very different ways up until 1988. In that year, the Illinois Supreme Court decided that the application of the law had become too out-of-balance between the appellate districts and sought to make things more uniform by handing down a rule and a formula in the case of In re: Marriage of Eckert. In the Eckert case, the Supreme Court instructed judges faced with removal cases to consider:
- The likelihood that the move will enhance the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and the children;
- The motives of the custodial parent in seeking to move to determine whether the removal is merely a ruse intended to defeat or frustrate visitation;
- The motives of the non-custodial parent in resisting the removal;
- That it is in the best interest of the child to have a healthy and close relationship with both parents and therefore the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent should be carefully considered; and
- Whether a realistic and reasonable visitation schedule can be reached if the move is allowed.
Some courts applied the Eckert factors differently than others. Many courts1 took the language "that the move will enhance the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and the children... " to mean that the child had to experience a direct benefit – an indirect benefit through the moving parent was insufficient. Other courts found that an indirect benefit to the child through the moving parent was sufficient to justify the move. That reasoning went like this: "A happy parent makes for a happy child; and if the move will make the parent happy, then the move will benefit the child."
In 2003, the Illinois Supreme Court endorsed the "a-happy-parent-makes-for-a-happy-child" logic and ruled that indirect benefits to a child could partly justify an out-of-state relocation.2 Since then, recent cases have permitted removal much more liberally. In one notable case, removal was permitted to Switzerland.3 On the other hand, the Eckert factors are still the law of the land – even if they have been softened by recent decisions – and what seems like routine requests to move the children only a few miles from Northern Illinois to Milwaukee have been denied.4