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Mom Moves Far, Far Away…Illinois Relocation Law

One of the best ways that divorcing parents can faciliate a good joint parenting agreement is to live within reasonable proximity of each other. When both parents live within minutes and miles of each other, the parents and kids benefit. Even the best and broadest parenting agreement can be difficult to endure if the parents live at great distance from each other. Conversely, even if the non-residential parent gets a standard “boilerplate” visitation schedule, the parent’s life with the kids is enhanced if he/she lives in the same school district as the kids.

The Illinois case of Samardzija illustrates a diffiuclt part of Illinois’ removal and relocation law. In this case, Mom moved from (for example) Gurnee, Illinois to Carbondale. The move then caused non-residential parent, Dad (a Gurnee resident), to drive hours to see his kids, when previously the drive had been only minutes. The move to Carbondale, in effect, stripped Dad of his parenting role with the kids. In Illiniois, the mother’s move to Carbondale was legal, and required no permission from the court. Mom moved, the kids said goodbye, and that was the end of Dad’s parenting life, as he knew it.

The Samardzija court reasoned that while parties in divorce can agree to geographical limitations when there is a specific need to do so, absent such agreement, Illinois imposes no restraints on a custodial parent from moving to the opposite end of the state, if he/she so chooses.

In Illinois, if the mother wised to move from Gurnee to across the border to Wisconsin, a drive of but a few minutes, she would have to petiton the court and set her removal case for a full evidentiary hearing. For the Gurnee custodial parent to move to Carbondale, he/she needs only a full tank of gas. No permission, from the court, or former spouse, needed.

Is the current state of Illinois law fair on this issue? Is it possible that some custodial parents might move far away, remaining in Illinois, just to distance the children from the non-custodial parent? Would an alienating parent benefit from this feature in Illinois law?

If the law should be different, how do you think it should read?

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