Navigating joint custody in Illinois is complex and nuanced, especially when it involves the sensitive matter of relocation. In Illinois, the decision to move to a new location with a child is not merely a personal choice but a significant legal one. The challenge becomes even more pronounced when both parents share custody of the child, and one parent decides to relocate.

In Illinois, the legal system places paramount importance on the welfare and best interests of the child in custody matters. This principle is the cornerstone of all decisions related to child custody and, by extension, relocation. For parents sharing joint custody, understanding the legal landscape is not just beneficial – it’s imperative.

The laws in Illinois are designed to balance the rights and responsibilities of both parents while ensuring that the child’s needs and well-being are at the forefront. Therefore, a move that may seem straightforward at first glance often requires navigating a complex legal process, which includes obtaining consent from the other parent or, failing that, a court’s approval.

Legal Requirements for Relocation in Illinois


The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the codification of family law in Illinois, lays out specific guidelines and requirements for relocation, particularly when it involves a child in a joint custody situation. Under this Act, relocation isn’t a simple matter of moving to a new home; it’s a legal process that must be navigated with care and attention to the law.

It’s also worth noting that Illinois law underwent significant changes in 2016, shifting the language from “custody” and “visitation” to “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” This change reflects a more modern understanding of parenting after divorce or separation, emphasizing shared responsibilities and the importance of both parents in a child’s life. First and foremost, the Act defines relocation in a specific way. In the context of Illinois law, relocation is considered when the parent with whom the child primarily resides plans to move a significant distance from their current home.

When a parent plans to relocate with a child, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act requires the relocating parent to provide written notice to the other parent. This notice must be given at least 60 days before the planned relocation unless such advance notice is impracticable. The notice should detail the intended new residence, the date of relocation, and the duration if the move is not intended to be permanent.

If the non-relocating parent agrees to the move and signs the notice, the relocating parent can proceed without going to court. However, if the other parent objects or if the parents cannot agree on revised terms of custody and visitation (now referred to as parenting time and responsibilities), the relocating parent must seek approval from the court.

When a request for relocation is brought before a court in Illinois, the judge will consider several criteria to determine whether the move serves the child’s best interests. These criteria include but are not limited to the circumstances and reasons for the intended relocation, the reasons why the non-relocating parent opposes the move, the history and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child, the educational opportunities for the child at the current location versus the new location, the presence or absence of extended family at both locations, the anticipated impact of the relocation on the child, and the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements.

The court’s primary focus is on how the relocation will affect the child’s well-being. It is not enough for the relocating parent to simply state a preference for moving. The parent must demonstrate that the relocation will benefit the child, not just the parent. This could include better schooling, proximity to extended family who can provide support, or economic opportunities that improve the child’s quality of life.

Steps to Request Relocation in Illinois

In Illinois, the process of requesting relocation in a joint custody scenario is methodical and legally structured, ensuring that the rights of all parties are respected, and the best interests of the child are upheld. This process involves several critical steps, beginning with the notification of the non-relocating parent and potentially culminating in a court petition if consensus is not reached.

1. Notification Requirements

The initial step in the relocation process involves formally notifying the non-relocating parent. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, this notification must be in writing and provided at least 60 days before the planned relocation. The written notice is not a mere formality; it’s a legal requirement that provides the other parent with sufficient time to consider the move’s implications and respond. The notice should include key details about the relocation: the intended new address (if known), the date of the proposed move, and, if the relocation is not permanent, the duration of the stay at the new location. This information provides a clear outline of the relocating parent’s plans, facilitating a more informed and transparent discussion between both parties.

2. The Role of Written Consent

Once the non-relocating parent receives the notice, they can give written consent to the move. If the non-relocating parent agrees to the relocation and signs the notice, it simplifies the process considerably. This consent indicates that both parents agree about the move and its implications for the child, including any necessary adjustments to parenting time and responsibilities. The signed document can then be filed with the court, often without the need for a formal hearing, as it demonstrates mutual agreement and adherence to the legal process.

3. Filing a Petition in Court

However, if the non-relocating parent does not give consent, the parent wishing to relocate must file a petition in court seeking permission to move with the child. This step elevates the matter to a legal proceeding, where a judge will ultimately decide whether the relocation is in the best interest of the child. The petition must outline the reasons for the move and provide a basis supporting why the relocation would benefit the child. The court then examines a variety of factors, including but not limited to the child’s relationship with both parents, the reasons for and against the move, and the potential impact on the child’s upbringing.

This step is critical and often involves a more in-depth legal process, including potential court hearings where both parents present their cases. It’s at this juncture that the complexities of joint custody and relocation intersect most directly, requiring careful legal navigation. The court’s decision will hinge on a comprehensive evaluation of how the relocation impacts the child, making it essential for the relocating parent to prepare a compelling case that aligns with the child’s best interests.

Considerations the Court Makes in Relocation Cases

When a parent in Illinois seeks to relocate with a child under joint custody and the matter is brought before the court, a meticulous and comprehensive evaluation process is initiated. The court’s primary objective is to determine whether the relocation aligns with the child’s best interests, a standard that underpins all decisions in family law cases. This section delves into the various factors that influence the court’s decision, highlighting the depth and complexity of considerations involved in these cases.

1. Factors Influencing the Court’s Decision

The court’s decision-making process is guided by a series of factors designed to assess the overall impact of the relocation on the child’s well-being. These factors include:

  • The Child’s Needs and Welfare – This encompasses the child’s physical, emotional, educational, and social needs. The court evaluates whether the new location better caters to these needs compared to the current situation.
  • Each Parent’s Reasons – The motivations behind both the relocating parent’s desire to move and the non-relocating parent’s opposition are scrutinized. The court looks for valid, child-centric reasons rather than motives stemming purely from personal preferences or interests.
  • The Child’s Relationship with Both Parents – Central to the court’s evaluation is how the relocation will affect the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent. The aim is to maintain a healthy and active relationship with both parents despite the geographical distance.
  • The Child’s Adjustment – This includes considering the child’s integration into their current community, school, and social circle and how relocating would impact these connections.

2. Best Interests of the Child

The best interest of the child is the paramount consideration in these cases. The court assesses whether the proposed relocation will enhance the quality of life for the child, both in the immediate and long term. This involves evaluating the educational, emotional, and developmental benefits the child might gain from the move. The stability of the new environment, opportunities for growth and development, and the presence of extended family or support networks in the new location are also crucial considerations.

3. Reasons for the Proposed Relocation

The court carefully examines the reasons presented by the relocating parent for the move. Commonly cited reasons include employment opportunities, the need to be closer to extended family members who can support the child, educational prospects, or significant life changes such as remarriage. The court evaluates these reasons to ensure they are legitimate and beneficial for the child’s welfare, not just advantageous to the relocating parent.

4. Impact on the Child’s Relationship with Both Parents

A critical aspect of the court’s evaluation is the potential impact of relocation on the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent. The court seeks to preserve this relationship and remain strong despite the distance. Consideration is given to the feasibility of maintaining regular contact, including the logistics of visitation, the financial implications of travel for visitation, and the willingness of both parents to facilitate and support a continuing relationship.

5. Examples of Scenarios Where Relocation Might Be Approved or Denied

In scenarios where the relocation is likely to enhance the child’s quality of life significantly – for example, due to better educational opportunities or closer proximity to a support network – the court might approve the relocation. Conversely, relocation requests might be denied if they appear to primarily serve the interests of the relocating parent without clear benefits to the child or if the move would severely hinder the child’s relationship with the other parent.

The Impact on Parenting Time and Custody Arrangements

Relocation in the context of joint custody in Illinois can have significant implications for parenting time and custody arrangements. The alteration of the geographical proximity between the child and each parent necessitates a careful reevaluation and adjustment of these arrangements to suit the new circumstances.

1. Potential Changes to Parenting Time Schedules

When one parent relocates, the existing parenting time schedule, often meticulously structured around school schedules, holidays, and other commitments, will likely need modification. The new schedule must consider the increased distance, which can affect the feasibility of mid-week visits, weekend exchanges, and holiday sharing. The goal is to develop a revised schedule supporting regular and meaningful contact with both parents.

This might involve longer but less frequent visits, especially if the relocation leads to greater travel distances. For instance, instead of weekly visits, the non-relocating parent might have the child for extended periods during school holidays, summer breaks, or long weekends. The use of technology for communication, such as video calls, can also be integrated into the schedule to maintain consistent contact.

2. Adjusting Custody Arrangements Post-Relocation

Adjustments to custody arrangements post-relocation are often necessary to align with the new logistics. This might involve redefining decision-making processes or modifying how parents handle day-to-day decisions about their child’s life. For example, the parent living with the child might take on more immediate responsibilities while both parents continue to share major decisions. These adjustments must keep the child’s best interests at the forefront, ensuring that the child continues to benefit from the involvement and care of both parents despite the changes in living arrangements.

3. Legal Options if the Non-Relocating Parent Opposes the Changes

If the non-relocating parent opposes the changes to parenting time and custody arrangements, they have the option to present their concerns to the court. The court will consider these objections in the context of the child’s best interests. Both parents need to be prepared to discuss and negotiate modifications to the custody arrangement. In some cases, mediation or legal counsel might be necessary to reach a resolution that is acceptable to both parties and serves the best interests of the child.

Contact Our Compassionate Chicago Child Custody Lawyer

If you are facing the challenge of relocation in Illinois and need experienced legal guidance, consider reaching out to Chicago child custody attorney Michael Craven. Known for his extensive experience and high-quality legal services, Michael Craven is deeply knowledgeable about the nuances of family law. His approach prioritizes the outcomes for his clients, ensuring that your needs and those of your child are at the forefront of his legal strategy.

With his compassionate approach, Michael Craven understands the difficulties you face during these trying times. Licensed in Illinois, he is ready to provide the support and guidance you need. Contact Michael Craven at (312) 621-5234 for a consultation and take the first step towards navigating your relocation journey with confidence and care.

The post How Does Relocation Work If You Have Joint Custody In Illinois? first appeared on Divorce Attorney in Chicago.