Written by Monica Borschel and Lisa Demonte Cervone

Imagine yourself in one of the following situations:

Brady and Mary had been successfully co-parenting their two children for the last two years. They had an amicable divorce. Mary had been struggling to find a career opportunity. She was ecstatic when she was offered a job across the country. However, she knew that her children would also be impacted. They would be farther away from their father and their friends. They would also need to start in a new school. Brady did not like the idea of being so far away from his children. Mary began to wonder if the new job was worth fighting Brady for.

Jim and Katie have been embroiled in a high-conflict divorce for the last year. When Jim told her he was moving to another state, Katie filed for divorce. “The kids need to be closer to my family. You can come or not come,” he told her. Katie did not get along with her in-laws. She refused for the children to live with Jim. She had been the primary caretaker. Later Katie found out that Jim wanted to remarry. The thought of their children living with a stepmom upset Katie.

What Constitutes Relocation?

In the State of Illinois, Relocation is defined as:

  1. Either party’s change of residence from the Minor Child’s current address to a new residence within this State that is more than 25 miles away, as measured by an Internet mapping service;
  2. Either party’s change of residence from the Minor Child’s current address to a residence outside the borders of Illinois more than 25 miles away. An Internet mapping service measures this.

If a party intends to relocate, that party must comply with Section 609.2 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/609.2).

Suppose a parent seeks to Relocate with a child or children. In that case, they must serve a Notice of Relocation on the other parent with the proposed new address and date of the proposed Relocation. Suppose the other parent signs the Notice, signifying their agreement to the Relocation. In that case, the Notice shall be filed without further action.

However, suppose the other parent either disagrees or does not respond. In that case, a parent may not relocate without a Court Order granting such Relocation.

What factors would a Court consider in determining a request for Relocation?

  1. Access to and Ability to Facilitate a Relationship with the Other Parent: Children do best when they have a relationship with both parents. Is the other parent willing to move as well? Do they have the ability to adjust their work schedule or work remotely, which would make travel easier? When will they have access and visitation? Are you willing to offer the other parent generous time during summers and school breaks? Try to put yourself in the other co-parent’s shoes. This can be challenging if you hold any resentment towards them. Instead of focusing on your emotions about the other parent, focus on your children’s emotions.
  2. Your Children’s Community and Extended Family: Consider the community your children would be leaving behind and the community they could be moving into. Your children have friends, family, teachers, and coaches with whom they have built relationships. Speak to them about how they would feel going. Also, think about the location of extended family. If the children have strong relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, their location, whether closer or farther from the proposed new place of residence, will matter.
  3. Mental and Emotional Health of the Children and Parents: Leaving your home and starting over can be emotionally overwhelming. You or your children might feel anxious, excited, or sad. If you must relocate, make space for your children’s fear and grief. Empathize and validate their emotions. Teaching your children how to regulate their emotions can build resilience. Your children show stress when they are acting out or regressing. You must watch over your mental health to help your children. Also, a little therapy or coaching for you or your child wouldn’t hurt. If you are in doubt, schedule a therapy or coaching session and see how it goes. Especially for children with special needs, they will need all the support available.
  4. Career Opportunities and Economic Betterment for the Family: A parent may seek to relocate for career advancement. There may be better job opportunities in their field in a specific area of the country. Consider how this would improve children’s lives, including access to healthcare, education, and social development. Also, consider the advantages and disadvantages for the other spouse in terms of career and cost of living.
  5. A New Spouse’s Career: Sometimes, after divorce, parents remarry, and the new spouse accepts a job opportunity in a different state or other far-off location. While this can be more difficult than the non-relocating spouse to accept, the same considerations will apply when one of the parties of the current marriage wants to move for career development. Ultimately, the children’s best interests will still take precedence, but that includes looking at whether the move would enhance their quality of life in all aspects. Consider the non-relocating parent’s mobility; for example, can they work remotely? Can they travel to see the children? In the post-COVID era, mobility is far more likely to be an option for many people.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused about relocating, a family lawyer can give you legal advice.  A coach or therapist can help you to work through any emotions that might be clouding your decision making abilities. 

Written by:
Dr Monica Borschel, Ph.D. Divorce and Trauma Recovery Coach
Monica is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah.  She later moved to New York City, earning her master’s in clinical psychology from Columbia University. She then pursued her Doctorate in Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong. Her training and qualifications include certifications in Brainspotting and High Conflict Coaching.
Email: info@doctormonicaborschel.com

Lisa Demonte Cervone, Illinois Matrimonial Lawyer[1]
Lisa Demonte Cervone is a partner at Griffin McCarthy & Rice LLP, where she practices exclusively in matrimonial and family law.  Lisa has practiced matrimonial and family law for 12 years and takes pride in supporting her clients through some of the most difficult times in their lives. Lisa has handled many divorces, child support and financial matters, parenting allocation matters, and highly contested relocation disputes.  While Lisa considers mediation and out of court settlement to be best for her clients, she is also a fierce litigator in the courtroom.
Phone: 312-782-4244
Email: ecervone@gmrfamilylaw.com
Website: Team — GMR Family Law
LinkedIn: Lisa Demonte Cervone | LinkedIn

[1] This article does not constitute legal advice. Further, legal concepts contained herein are specific to the State of Illinois, and the authors make no representations as to legal issues in other jurisdictions outside Illinois. Consult an experienced family law attorney if you have questions or need legal advice.