Child Relocation to North Carolina Not in the Best Interest of the Children
A Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage was entered on May 24, 2016. The parties had three minor children, ages 16, 12 and 11. Pursuant to the Allocation Judgment, the mother had been allocated the majority of the children’s parenting time. The mother filed a Petition for Child Relocation and sought permission to relocate with the parties’ minor children to North Carolina. Judge Elizabeth M. Rochford found that the mother failed to sustain her burden of proof and denied her Petition to Relocate with the children. The following summary is based on an edited excerpt of Judge Rochford’s transcribed findings and determination.
Petition for Child Relocation
The mother was represented by William P. Suriano of the Law Offices of William P. Suriano. The father was represented by Kimberly J. Anderson of Anderson & Boback. The Guardian Ad Litem was Marc K. Schwartz of Schwartz, Wolf & Bernstein, LLP.
The father worked in the computer industry and had been employed by Hewlett Packard. He worked primarily from home with some travel required.
The mother was employed in North Carolina by Alex Lee Merchants Distributors Division. The family had moved to Michigan, Ohio, Milwaukee, and Illinois throughout the parties’ marriage to accommodate the mother’s various employments. Sometime after the Judgment was entered, the mother became unemployed. She testified that she made efforts to secure employment in Illinois and other locations including North Carolina. She acknowledged that living in North Carolina had been on her “bucket list” for 25 to 30 years. She received a job offer in North Carolina on or about January 2017. She described it as her “dream job.”
Since the entry of the Judgment, the mother testified that the father had shown less interest in the children during his parenting time. He had not utilized the full extent of his parenting time as permitted by the Judgment and Allocation Judgment and he failed or forgot to take the children to their scheduled activities from time to time.
Mother’s Argument that Relocation in the Best Interests of the Children
The mother argued that relocation was in the best interests of the children. If the relocation were allowed the children would benefit in many ways.
- She would obtain full-time employment.
- She was currently unemployed and unable to find employment within the State of Illinois although she submitted approximately fifty online job applications with six to ten phone screenings and with two on-site interviews.
- She would gain a promotion.
- The mother planned to reside around Hickory, North Carolina, approximately forty-five minutes Northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, a major metropolitan city.
- The children would be enrolled in public schools that were ranked nine and ten out of ten, whereas their current schools were ranked seven and nine out of ten.
- The cost of living was approximately 20% less than at present in Illinois.
- The children would also be able to take advantage of cultural activities both in Hickory and Charlotte and within Hickory, the children would be exposed to and have greater contact with people of color who were in prominent positions.
Prior to the hearing, the mother moved to North Carolina in the summer of 2017, purchased a home and currently commuted to Chicago to exercise her parenting time every other weekend. Initially, during her absences from Illinois, she arranged for the children to be cared for by her friend rather than providing notice to or giving the father an opportunity for the children to be cared for by him. The mother sold the former residence on or about August of 2017. The residential address had previously provided the children residency purposes for returning to their current schools.
In August 2017 and on an emergency basis, the father secured an apartment by entering into a one-year lease in the children’s school district to allow them to continue to attend their established schools. At that time, residential placement of the children was transferred to the father without prejudice pending a fall hearing.
Father Designated Primary Residential Parent When Mother Fails to Meet Burden of Proof
The court re-appointed Guardian ad Litem Marc Schwartz to investigate the children’s best interest in regard to the relocation petition. In his reports and testimony, he ultimately concluded that relocation was not in the best interests of the children.
The court found that the mother failed to sustain her burden of proof and denied her Petition for Relocation to North Carolina. The Allocation Judgment was to be modified to designate the father as the primary residential parent for school purposes.
To learn more about child relocation view Ms. Anderson’s blog on recent Illinois child relocation cases or contact us for a confidential consultation.