Oftentimes while a family law case is pending, parents will need or want to move with their minor children. The child relocation law in Illinois as of 2021 indicated that you need to seek approval for relocation from the Court if you want to move your minor child(ren) more than 25 miles away from their current residence. However, under the Illinois statute, as written in 2021, it indicates that “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.” Judges and attorneys have interpreted this section to mean that until a parenting time schedule is in place, a parent cannot seek relocation, because it is unknown if that parent has the “majority” of parenting time or “equal” parenting time, until, at a minimum, there is a parenting time schedule in a custody order.
New Temporary Child Relocation Law
Many Judges have also been interpreting the child relocation law to mean that the order must be a final order for parenting time and not a temporary order. The undesirable and unintended consequence of this statute is that a parent cannot petition to relocate a minor child more than 25 miles away from their current address during the pendency of a case. This can be problematic in certain scenarios. Sometimes a parent obtains a new job or has other reasons why they wish to move with their minor children. The move is not always across state lines or far away, either. The move could be just slightly more than 25 miles away from their current residence. However, the way the child relocation statute is drafted, it is entirely possible that a Judge could deny a parent any such relief until the case is over.
Effective January 1, 2022, this has been remedied in Illinois law. Section (a-5) has been added to section 750 ILCS 603.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, governing Temporary orders, and it indicates in pertinent part as follows:
A court may order the relocation of the child on a temporary basis before the entry of a final allocation judgment if it is in the best interests of the child. Any relocation shall be considered temporary in nature and shall not prejudice either parent in the allocation of parental responsibilities contained in a final allocation judgment. Any relocation shall be made in accordance with the protocol set forth in subsection (c) through (g) of Section 609.2.
This is a very welcome change to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act as it clarifies what the Court has the ability to do when it comes to temporary child relocation. Attorneys can petition for temporary relocation and/or file relocation notices on a temporary basis without fear that the Court will deny it simply because the Judgment has not yet entered.
It is also important to note that while the new section indicates that the relocation “shall not prejudice either parent in the allocation of parental responsibilities”, this doesn’t solely refer to decision-making allocations. By definition, under 750 ILCS 5/600, where terms are defined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, “parental responsibilities” are defined as meaning “both parenting time and significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to a child.” So, essentially, it is arguable that a temporary relocation also does not prejudice a final parenting time award, which is often one of the reasons a non-relocating parent will object to the relocation of their minor child to begin with. With this law now in effect since January 1, 2022, it will be interesting to see how the new statute is utilized.