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Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Trial Court's Decision To Allow Parent To Relocate Out of State With Children After Divorce.
The Illinois Appellate Court recently overturned a trail divorce court decision regarding relocation of parent out of state with the children. The facts of this case are quite interesting.
Mom and Dad were divorced in 2015. Two children were born during the marriage, ages 14, and 8. Dad and Mom both lived in Galesburg, Illinois. Dad had primary possession of the children; however, Mom had parenting time with the children 6 out of every 14 days. Dad was unemployed at the time he filed his Notice to Relocate requesting he be allowed to relocate with the children to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Mom was employed and had an employment contract running through the year 2020.
Dad wanted to move to Virginia Beach, so that he could live rent free with his parents. Dad’s divorce attorney attempted to convince the court that Virginia Beach was a better place to raise children as opposed to Galesburg, Illinois. Mom’s divorce attorney stated that Mom was actively involved in the children’s lives and exercised her parenting time consistently. Remember, Mom saw the children approximately 44% of the year.
The trial court granted Dad’s Petition to Relocate, finding that Virginia Beach provided a better environment to raise children as opposed to Galesburg, Illinois, and that the move would be in the best interests of the children. Mom appealed.
In a rare turn of events, the Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision allowing the removal. The Appellate Court stated that the trial Court should not have allowed the removal because Mom was actively involved in the children’s lives and the burden of proof was on Dad to show that removal would be better for the children. This case came down to the issue of “burden of proof.” Let us assume that maybe Virginia Beach would offer better schools and more access to extracurricular activities for the kids. If this question was posed in a vacuum, then indeed, maybe the children should move with Dad to Virginia Beach. However, the children and mom enjoyed a great relationship in Illinois. Mom was an actively involved parent. This parent-child relationship would be severely strained if Dad was allowed to move the children to Virginia Beach. If the move was allowed, Mom would only see the children mostly during their summer vacations. Just because Dad wanted to live rent free with his parents, is not enough of a reason for severely decreasing Mom’s parenting time, and moving the children to a different state. The burden was on Dad to show that the move was in the children’s best interests. Clearly, the Appellate Court reasoned that the benefits of relocation did not outweigh the benefits of maintaining an active relationship wit the children’s mother.
These type of relocation cases are highly fact specific. A person may file a Petition to Relocate with the minor children at any time. This petition can be filed during a divorce or after (post-decree) a divorce. Your divorce attorney will need to gather as many facts as possible to proceed with, or defend a Petition to Relocate.
A narrative needs to be created when litigating these types of petitions. Your divorce or family law attorney needs to paint a picture for the judge. Remember, do not get bogged down in the specifics, but focus on the whole story. Do not miss the forest for the trees. At the end of the day, the judge will need to feel convinced that either the proposed move is better or worse for the children. The biggest factor the judge will most likely weight is whether the benefits of the move outweigh the benefits of the children’s continued relationship wit the parent who is remaining in Illinois. This is the biggest factor on which your divorce attorney needs to place his/her focus. Usually if a parent is allowed to relocate with the children, then the other parent’s parenting time is severely reduced, due to the extended distance between the parents. If the non-moving parent has rarely exercised his/her parenting time, then it will be easier for the judge to allow removal. If the non-moving parent visits the children on a regular basis, it will be more difficult to allow removal.
DPG Family Law is a top rated and reviewed divorce and family law firm which specializes in removal and/or relocation cases in Illinois. Our divorce and family law attorneys specialize in this area of law. Please feel free to contact us for a free consultation at either our Hoffman Estates, Illinois, or Lincolnshire, Illinois, office.
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