Illinois Child Relocation vs. Merely Moving
updated 8 December 2018
by attorney Wes Cowell;
Sometimes parents must relocate. Illinois law is very strict about what a parent must do BEFORE moving a child out-of-state or even more than a few miles. Need advice? Call, leave your info, or schedule a consult.
It used to be that a "primary residential parent" could relocate anywhere in Illinois without restriction. That unlimited ability wreaked havoc on many parenting plans and custody orders. To remove a child from Illinois, however -- even just a few miles -- required a LOT of legal effort. Injustice and contradictions were everywhere: a parent could move children from Rock Island to Cairo (more than 400 miles and six hours away) without prior court approval but had to get a judge's permission to move one block across Shirland Avenue from South Beloit, Illinois to Beloit, Wisconsin. There had to be a better way.
Applies Only to Parents with Majority or Equal Parenting Time: Illinois' Relocation law (effective since 1/1/2016) applies only to parents with a majority of, or equal, parenting time. A parent without majority or equal parenting time may move wherever and whenever they want. The law says:
(b) A parent who has been allocated a majority of parenting time or either parent who has been allocated equal parenting time may seek to relocate with a child.
750 ILCS 5/609.2(b)
Today parents with a majority of, or equal, parenting time may relocate relatively short distances away -- even out-of-state -- and it's no big deal. If they move beyond a certain distance, however, they must follow relocation rules spelled out in the law.
Relocating vs. "Merely Moving:" I use the term "merely moving" to describe situations where Illinois' relocation law doesn't apply. Other rules may apply, but those are defined your Parenting Plan or court orders . . . not in the law. To help keep things clear, lawyers and judges use the term "relocating" to describe only those situations where the relocation rules are triggered and a parent needs to take specific steps in court prior to relocating.
A parent is relocating if he or she seeks to relocate the children:
more than 25 miles from the child's current primary residence in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will Counties (750 ILCS 5/600(g)(1));
more than 50 miles from the child's current primary residence in any other Illinois county (750 ILCS 5/600(g)(2));
to a residence outside Illinois that is more than 25 miles from the child's current primary residence. 750 ILCS 5/600(g)(3)
A parent is merely moving if he or she seeks to move the children
less than 25 miles from the child's current primary residence in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will Counties; 750 ILCS 5/600(g)(1);
less than 50 miles from the child's current primary residence in any other county; 750 ILCS 5/600(g)(2);
to a residence outside Illinois that is less than 25 miles from the child's current primary residence in any county. 750 ILCS 5/600(g)(3)
Point-to-Point Distance or "Miles Driven?": The law creates these limitations but doesn't define whether the 25- and 50-mile limits are for miles driven or "as the crow flies." In 2016 the law was amended to try to clarify things. The law now defines a "relocation" as a 25+ or 50+ mile move "from the child's current residence, as measured by an Internet mapping service." 750 ILCS 5/600(g)(1) and (2). An "internet mapping service?" What the . . . ?
"Internet mapping services" offer options for point-to-point vs. miles driven measurements. The bottom line is that the new, improved law, intended to clarify things, merely muddies the waters.
Uphill / Downhill: The 25-mile limit for Cook and the Collar Counties accounts for travel delays caused by traffic congesting. But the 25- or 50- mile limit is determined by the county you're moving FROM, not the county you're moving TO. If you live in one of the Collar Counties, the rules are triggered by a 25+ mile move . . . even if you're moving "downhill" to a county that follows the 50-mile limit.
If you live in a county that follows the 50-mile limit, however, it applies even if you're moving "uphill" INTO Cook or one of the Collar Counties. A parent living just outside the border of the Collar Counties (e.g., Oswego) could move all the way into the very heart of downtown Chicago and still be within the 50-mile limit.
The Relocation Rules: If you're planning on relocating, you have to play by the rules: The relocating parent must give the other parent at least 60 days notice (a shorter notice period is allowed if 60 days is impractical) and a copy of the notice must be filed with the court (it gets date- and time-stamped so the judge will know whether you've met the 60 day requirement), the notice must include:
the date you plan to move,
your new address (if known),
whether the relocation will be permanent or temporary and, if temporary, its expected duration.
Agreement: If the non-relocating parent agrees to the relocation, he or she signs the notice, the parents write up an agreement modifying the Parenting Plan to accommodate the relocation and present it all to the judge for approval, and that's it -- you're done.
No Agreement: If the non-relocating parent objects and refuses to sign the notice, or if the parents cannot agree on a revised Parenting Plan, the relocating parent must petition the court for permission to relocate. In deciding whether to allow the relocation, the court must allow or deny the request to serve the child's "best interests." The court must consider, among other factors:
the circumstances and reasons for the relocation;
the reasoning underlying the non-relocating parent's objection;
the "history and quality" of each parent's relationship with the child (this is really looking at whether the non-relocating parent assiduously exercised parenting time and parenting responsibilities);
school comparisons (work with a lawyer -- this is very difficult because nearly all such evidence is inadmissible hearsay unless you follow the Illinois rules of evidence);
where extended family lives (near the current residence and the new, proposed location);
whether the parental responsibilities can be reallocated reasonably (this really is all about the child's travel for "parenting time" -- "decision-making" is almost never a problem because parents can live halfway around the world from each other and, thanks to e-mail, text messaging, video conferencing, and phone calls, they can still co-parent);
the child's wishes;
how to minimize the impact on the child's relationship with the non-relocating parent.
750 ILCS 5/609.2
HELPFUL TOOL: If you're dealing with a relocation case, check out whatshalfway.com -- a handy site that will find the midway point between any two addresses. It'll even help you find venues near the halfway point.
These cases have a lot of evidence, a lot of history, and it has to be organized and presented to the court in an accessible and understandable way. Work with a lawyer.