A recent ruling in the Illinois Appellate Court decided a very tough decision about two very qualified parents and whether the one parent could move out of Illinois with their minor child, so she could pursue her dream job.
Two individuals were married and had one minor child, they decided to separate and had been granted joint custody and decision making for their child. While married the couple lived in the City of Chicago and then later moved to Downers Grove in their marital home. During the divorce proceedings the marital home was sold, and the father moved to a rental home a few doors down from the marital home and the mother moved to an apartment nearby. The minor child’s mother had the life long dream of getting her Ph.D. from a school in North Carolina. The mother petitioned the circuit court to relocate to North Carolina because she was successful in being admitted to the Ph.D. program that she wanted to attend and would work in her dream job while studying for her degree. Experts for both parents determined that both parents had a successful and nurturing relationship with their minor child and that she would succeed with either parent in Illinois or North Carolina. The father objected to his minor child moving away to North Carolina as, among other things, he would not see her as often and would not have as many in-person interactions with his daughter.
The circuit court determined under 750 ILCS 5/609, which governs the relocation of a child from Illinois. Section 609 allows a court to grant the relocation of a child when such approval is in the best interest of a child(en). Section 5/609 does not codify the factors for a court to determine if relocation of a child is in the best interest of the child, but the Illinois Supreme Court has developed these factors. These factors are referred to as the Eckert factors, which are: 1. the likelihood that the proposed move will enhance the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and the child; 2. the custodial parent’s motives for seeking removal, to determine whether the proposed move is a ruse designed to frustrate or defeat the noncustodial parent’s visitation; 3. the noncustodial parent’s motives in resisting removal; 4. The effect removal will have on the noncustodial parent’s visitation rights because it is in the best interest of a child to have a healthy and close relationship with both parents, as well as with other family members; and 5. whether a reasonable visitation schedule can be worked out. In re Marriage of Eckert, 119 Ill. 2d 316, 326-28 (1988). Recently the Illinois Legislature codified these factors and created eleven statutory factors that a court must balance when determining the relocation of a child. See 750 ILCS 5/609.2(g). When the trial court makes its determination, it must consider these factors and the totality of the circumstances when it makes a child relocation decision.
The trial court and the appellate court analyzed the minor child’s fathers’ argument, among his other arguments, that his time with his child was unreasonably reduced because she would be moving across state lines and living with her mother in North Carolina. The trial court and the appellate court rejected the father’s arguments and determined that it was in the best interest of the minor child to move with her mother to North Carolina (but it was a “close call”). The child’s father was still granted time with his daughter on alternating weekends and the first weekend in Illinois and the second in North Carolina. Also, the father was granted five weeks of parenting time in the summer and all of Spring Break in alternating years and certain holidays. The court did not think this was a reduction of parenting time but was a reallocation of the father’s time with his daughter.
The case is In re Marriage of Kavchak, 2018 IL App (2d) 170853.
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