Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 01D54 Honorable Joseph P. Skowronski, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner
In February 2001, petitioner, Theresa Margaret Parr, filed a petition for dissolution of her marriage to respondent, Eric Norman Parr. In December 2002, petitioner filed a motion to amend her petition for dissolution, seeking sole custody of the parties' minor children and for leave to remove the children to Colorado. In August 2003, the trial court entered an order, awarding petitioner sole custody of the children but denying her request to remove the children to Colorado. The order also awarded respondent the federal and state tax exemptions for two of the three minor children for the years 2002, 2003, and all subsequent years.
Petitioner appeals, asserting the trial court erred by (1) denying her leave to remove the children to Colorado and (2) awarding respondent the federal and state tax exemptions for two of the three children. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with directions.
The parties were married in May 1988 and, during their marriage, had three children, Chelsie (born in October 1988), Brynn (born in August 1990), and Colton (born in May 1993). In 1990, the parties built a log cabin in Catlin, Illinois, where the parties resided the rest of their marriage. The three-bedroom home is built on 20 acres of land and has a barn that houses the family's numerous pets, including horses and donkeys.
At the time of their marriage, both parties had bachelor degrees, and during the marriage, both parties worked outside the home. In January 1998, respondent obtained his master's degree in animal science. Shortly before graduation, he obtained employment with United Feeds in Frankfort, Indiana, which was about a 1-hour-and-25-minute drive from Catlin. Initially, he commuted daily to his job but, in spring 1998, he got an efficiency apartment in Frankfort and came home to Catlin on the weekends. At the time of the hearing, respondent was still employed at United Feeds as a research manager, earning approximately $46,173 per year.
In January 1999, petitioner obtained her master's degree in animal science. She then quit her full-time job with the University of Illinois and pursued her doctor of philosophy degree (PhD) in animal nutrition. While working on her PhD, she was a graduate assistant, earning $1,100 a month and receiving a tuition waiver. To help with living expenses, petitioner also obtained loans from the federal government, totaling $64,294.67, and checks from her father, Louis Cambier, totaling $50,000, which the trial court later found were gifts, not loans. Petitioner's assistantship was to end in March 2003, and she was to receive her PhD in May 2003.
Since starting school, the children have attended Catlin Grade School and are involved in numerous activities. Each child has many friends that he or she has known since kindergarten. All three children are straight A students.
In February 2001, petitioner filed a motion for dissolution of marriage. In June 2001, the trial court granted a dissolution judgment on grounds only. In May 2002, the trial court appointed a limited guardian ad litem for the child-custody issue. In October 2003, the trial court ordered respondent to pay $417.28 in child support every other week (average of $904.10 per month).
In November 2002, Colorado Quality Research, Inc. (CQR), offered petitioner a position as investigator/director of nutrition with a base salary of $67,650 and a reasonable expectation of an additional 10% to 15% performance/profit-sharing bonus. CQR would also pay $5,000 to cover moving expenses and would pay 85% of petitioner's health insurance premium. The position's hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, with almost no travel. CQR is located in Wellington, Colorado.
In December 2002, petitioner filed a motion to amend the petition for dissolution of marriage, requesting that the trial court grant her sole custody of the children and leave to remove them to Colorado so she could accept the CQR job offer. After a December 2002 hearing, the trial court granted petitioner's motion.
In March 2003, the trial court held a three-day hearing on the remaining issues, devoting the first two days solely to the issues of custody and removal. The last day dealt with financial issues. On that day, respondent requested he receive the state and federal tax exemptions for all three children for the year 2002 and all future years.
At the hearing, petitioner testified the University of Illinois did not have any positions available in her field. Petitioner had sent out 19 resumes and had worked with a headhunter. Most of the companies she contacted were in the Midwest. She only received one other job offer, which was from a company in Princeton, Missouri, paying $50,000 a year. She saw little opportunity of advancement with that job. Princeton was about a seven-hour drive from Catlin. According to petitioner, Catlin and the immediate area had no employment opportunities in which she could use her degree.
Petitioner further testified the CQR job offer was still available with the same terms. Since the November 2002 job offer, she has done a small amount of part-time work for CQR. Petitioner stated it is very difficult to do work from home because she needs to be out in the barns participating in the research. She sees a lot of potential with the CQR job, including the possibility of co-ownership.
Petitioner had been to the Wellington area four times, taking the children on one of the trips. Wellington is a town of 1,500 people, about 10 miles north of Fort Collins. Petitioner had contacted a realtor and had looked at homes in the rural Wellington area. She would like to buy a home with some acreage so she and the children can bring their pets with them. Because of the uncertainty of whether she can accept the CQR offer, ...