Legally Taking a Child Out of Illinois

Legally Taking a Child Out of Illinois
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Last updated: February 2011

If We Have a Custody Agreement, Can I Legally Take My Child Out of Illinois without Telling the Other Parent?

No, you must tell the other parent any time you plan to take your child out of state. You should always give the other parent the address and phone number where the child will be and the date you plan to return with the child.

If the Other Parent Agrees, How Long Can I Take Our Child Out of Illinois?

If the other parent agrees, then you can take your child out of Illinois for a vacation or short trip.
If you are leaving Illinois permanently, then you need to go to court and get a court order from the judge. This order will allow you to legally remove your child from Illinois.
The only exception to this rule is if both you and the other parent agreed to permission for removal in the parenting agreement.

If the Other Parent Does Not Agree, Can I Still Take Our Child Out of Illinois?

If the other parent does not agree, then you have to go to court and get a judge to give you permission to take your child out of Illinois. The permission that the judge gives you is called an Order of Removal.

If you and the other parent agreed to permission for removal in the original marital settlement agreement then you would not need to get a judge’s permission.

If I Go to Court, Will the Judge Automatically Give Me Permission to Take Our Child Out of Illinois?

No. Before the judge gives you permission, the judge will decide what is best for the child. The judge will look at:

  • What the child's needs are
  • Where the child's needs can best be met
  • If child's situation will be better or worse by moving out of state
  • If there is an important reason for the move

If the judge decides that there is an “important reason” for the move and that the child will not be worse off, the judge will let the child be moved. But if the judge believes that the move will not be good for the child, the judge might order the child to stay in the state.

Also, it is very unlikely that the judge will let either parent move out of state if the divorce is not final yet or if the divorce has been final less than two years.

What Are Some “Important Reasons” Why a Judge Might Let Me Take My Child Out of State?

A judge is more likely to let the child be moved out of state if:

  • The child may be in danger and must be moved for safety reasons
  • The parent has gotten a job in another state
  • There is a serious medical problem that must be treated in another state

Even for an important reason, the judge will still consider the rights of the other parent. Remember that visitation is very important and usually it is in the best interest of the child. The judge will want to know your plan for allowing the child to visit the other parent.

If I Have More than One Child, Can the Judge Give Permission to Move Only Some Children and Not Others?

It is not very likely that a judge will allow some of your children to be moved and not others. Remember that moving can often be very hard on children emotionally. A judge will try to keep a child's life as normal as possible, which includes keeping brothers and sisters together.  

How Long Will It Take to Get an Order of Removal?

It takes a long time to get a court order from a judge. It can take as long as 6 months to a year or more, depending on the reasons for the move and what the judge thinks best for the children. Sometimes the judge will want experts to help decide what is best for the children, and that can take time.

Will the Judge Consider the Fact that I Have Sole or Joint Custody?

Probably not. Your custody arrangement defines how you can make the day-to-day decisions about your children, as well as who can make the major decisions. The judge usually wants both parents to have a relationship with their children. So the judge will make a decision about removal without worrying about who actually has custody. 

What If I Want to Leave the United States Temporarily?

Any parent that has custody has the opportunity to take a child out of the country after the custody agreement has been finalized, as long as the other parent agrees.

Sometimes you need a court order that allows the children to temporarily leave the United States. Some countries require proof that the parents agreed that the child could be taken to that country before they will allow the child to enter that country. Some of the countries that require proof are Australia, Canada, Israel, Lebanon and Mexico. Be sure to check with the State Department (travel.state.gov) for specific information about your custody arrangement and the country you will be visiting. Always carry a child's birth certificates, passports, certified copies of the custody orders, or any other necessary documentation to show that you have custody when traveling to a country outside the United States.

Remember that usually both parents must give written consent to get a child’s passport. But a parent with sole custody can apply for a child’s passport without the other parent’s signature.

Can I Move to Another Part of Illinois without a Court Order?

Yes, you are allowed to move within the state. You do not need a court order. But if the move disrupts the relationship and visitation rights between the child and the other parent, the judge may not allow the child to move. Even if the judge allows the move, the judge might also order a change to the visitation schedule to make it easier for the other parent to visit the child.

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