Long Distance Visitation in Illinois Divorces

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As gas prices are again increasing, it is a reminder to divorced and separated parents as well as those who may be going through a divorce to pay attention to the details.  In this case, the detail I am referring to is what can be the rather substantial cost of transportation of children for activities and visitation.

In just about every case, the non-custodial parent will pay child support based on a statutory percentage to the custodial parent.  Those funds are meant to assist with the expenses of the child.  The statute does not require the funds to be used directly on the child nor is there any requirement for an accounting.  And, frankly, such an accounting would be near impossible.  However, in addition to child support, the courts in Illinois and in McHenry County often order the custodial and non-custodial parent to share extra-curricular activity expenses.  Usually, this is limited to fees and special clothing, but in some McHenry County cases, where the children’s activities involve significant travel and gas expenses, some judges will consider providing for the division of fuel expenses.  If you are in McHenry County and need a divorce lawyer to discuss setting or modifying child support, you can contact me for a free consultation.  My offices are conveniently located in Woodstock, Illinois — a short distance from the McHenry County Government Center.

In addition to gas and transportation for extracurricular activities, in some divorce and child support cases, the cost and time commitment for transportation for visitation or parenting time can also be contested.  Each judge and each county may be different.  Making these sorts of decisions is within the judge’s discretion.  I have found in McHenry County and in front of other judges, that there is a preference for sharing the burden of transportation, both as to time and cost.  However, when one party moves out of the area resulting in substantial increases to the cost for transportation, the divorce courts, both in McHenry County and other Illinois counties, seem inclined to apportion the additional costs and time to the parent who moved.  This can be a devastating additional cost if a custodial parent or non-custodial parent who was having a hard time obtaining employment finds they need to move 30, 60, 90 or even 150 or more miles away in order to find appropriate or better employment.  Given current fuel costs, a visiting parent responsible for all transportation living 100 miles from the child can expect to spend an additional $120 per month on fuel, or more than $1,400 per year.  Similarly, a custodial parent who takes a job elsewhere to make ends meet or obtain additional income, could find the benefit eaten away at by the higher costs for transportation if that burden falls on them.

Both sides in these cases have good points.  The party who did not move will certainly not want to pay anything more or spend any more time doing transportation because the other side moved.  The party moving, especially if they feel like they needed to to obtain or maintain employment, will not want to lose time with their children or have to pay the additional costs in money and time for transportation.  And both sides have valid arguments.