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Parental Relocation Requests & Abductions

Child Relocation Requests

Life is not static.  Even after parents have physically separated and a parenting agreement has been put into place, there are times when a parent may find themselves in need of moving away from their existing home to another part of Illinois, across state lines, or even to another country.  The reasons are varied: new jobs, better schools, health issues, remarriage, and others.

However, in certain circumstances Illinois law places restrictions on a parent’s ability to move a child from their existing home without first obtaining court approval.  Relocating a child can have profound effects on the other parent’s parenting time and relationship with the child.  If you are considering a change in residence for your child, or your ex-spouse is seeking to move your child far away or out of the state, the dedicated family law attorneys at Davis Friedman are well-versed and experienced in child removal cases and the applicable legal requirements and procedures.

Illinois Law on Child Relocation

In 2016, the law in Illinois materially changed regarding child removal (now called “relocation.”) Under the new law (750 ILCS 5/609.2), a parent seeking to relocate a child from Illinois or even within the state of Illinois if the move is beyond a certain distance away the child’s existing primary residence (either 25 or 50 miles depending on the location of the child’s residence within the state), that parent must comply with strict statutory requirements.

First, only a parent who has been allocated equal or the majority of parenting time may seek a relocation.  A parent who meets that qualification then must provide written notice to the other parent no less than 60 days prior to anticipation relocation unless such notice is impracticable (in which case, the notice must be made as early as possible).  The notice must provide the anticipated date of the relocation, the address of the new residence, if known, and the length of time of the relocation, if the time is not permanent or indefinite.  There are other important procedural rules that must also be followed, such as filing the written notice with the circuit court clerk.

If the non-relocating parent objects or does not sign the written notice consenting to the relocation, then the parent seeking the relocation must file an action with the appropriate circuit court requesting permission to relocate the child.  By law, a judge must decide whether the relocation is in the child’s best interest and in doing so must consider the following factors:

  • The circumstances and reasons for the intended relocation;
  • The reason, if any, why a parent is objecting to the intended relocation;
  • The history and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child and specifically whether a parent substantially failed or refused to exercise the parental responsibilities allocated to him or her under the parenting plan or allocation judgment;
  • The educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and the proposed new location;
  • The presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
  • The anticipated impact of the relocation on the child;
  • Whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable allocation of parental responsibilities between all parents if the relocation occurs;
  • The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to relocation;
  • Possible arrangements for the exercise of parental responsibilities appropriate to the parents’ resources and circumstances and the developmental level of the child;
  • Minimization of the impairment to a parent-child relationship caused by a parent’s relocation; and
  • Any other relevant factors bearing on the child’s best interest.

A parent considering whether to relocate a child away from the child’s primary residence would be wise to fully understand the new law and their legal rights.  This particular area of law is often complex and contentious and can be very time-sensitive.  Davis Friedman’s family lawyers are extremely skilled in removal/relocation cases and adept at navigating clients through these sometimes contentious waters to arrive at the best possible resolution.

Child Abduction – Penalties

It is true that when parents are in the midst of a pugnacious child custody battles, it may reach the point where one parent hastily takes the child absent the authorization of the other parent or the court. Under certain circumstances, parental abduction of a child, also known as PAC, is a crime in the state of Illinois. There are strict guidelines that make clear when parental abduction occurs.  An act will be deemed parental abduction if a parent intentionally does at least one of the following:

  1. Detains or conceals a child in violation of the terms of a court-ordered custody arrangement
  2. Removes the child in violation of a court-ordered custody arrangement
  3. Removes, conceals, or detains the child without legal consent of the other parent
  4. Removes or conceals the child before the court has issued either temporary or final custody

There is a difference between kidnapping and abduction. Kidnapping involves force or threats of force. Abduction on the other hand usually involves the consent of the child. The custodial parent may charge the non-custodial parent with parental abduction so long as the custodial parent has an order to show his or her custodial rights. If a parent does not have an order showing his or her custodial rights, there are additional ways in which the perpetrator of a parental abduction can be held accountable.

Paternity is presumed if the mother was married to the father at the time of the child’s birth. If a couple is married and one spouse has hidden the child for fifteen days or has taken the child by force, it is possible to charge the other parent with PAC even if there is no custody order. In cases of maternal abandonment, if a mother takes or hides a child from the father who has been caring for the child in her absence, the father has a right to charge the mother with PAC regardless of whether his paternity has been established here. In cases where paternity has yet to be established and the parties were never married, if the mother has putative custody she may charge the father with PAC.

Child Abduction – Prevention

One way to deter parental abduction is to place abduction prevention protections into the divorce decree or to seek modifications to add them to the divorce decree. Another option would be for the parents to post bonds, or to create a trust to be used to locate the parent in the case of a parental abduction. In cases in which the risk of parental abduction is high, it may be beneficial for a parent to consider proposing mandated supervised visits to mitigate the risk. Finally, in cases in which there is fear that the parental abduction may cross the United States boarders, a prevention technique that may be beneficial is the holding of either the child or both the child and the risky parents passports during visitation.

One final option to prevent parental abduction if you have a fear that it may happen would be to attempt to get an emergency custody order. In Illinois, a parent may file for an emergency custody order as long as the child is in the state and has either been abandoned or needs emergency protection due to threats of abuse. By reaching out to one of the experienced attorneys of Davis Friedman as soon as possible, they can assure your child’s safety by putting some of these safeguards in place for the duration of your custody battle.

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