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Can My Child Choose Who to Live With After the Divorce?

 Posted on April 22, 2024 in Child Custody in Illinois

Plainfield, IL child custody lawyerOne of the top issues facing parents who get divorced in Illinois is child custody. During the divorce process, Illinois law requires parents to submit a parenting plan detailing important information such as:

  • The responsibilities of each parent

  • Who will have the majority of parenting time, which is when the child is in the parent’s physical care

  • Arrangements for transporting the child between the parents

  • How to divide decision-making, known as “parental responsibilities,” among the parents

Parents do not always agree on these issues, particularly when it comes to the question of who should have the majority of parenting time. Sometimes, a mediator or judge will take a child’s preference into account, which this article will discuss.

There are no guaranteed formulas when it comes to child custody, so make sure to discuss any questions you have with a qualified divorce attorney in Illinois.

Does the Child’s Preference Matter?

A court will want to know who the child prefers to live with. However, this is only one factor out of many that Illinois law takes into account. Other factors include:

  • Each parent’s income

  • The educational and developmental needs of the child

  • How much time the child spends with each parent

  • The distance between the parents

  • The cost of transporting the child between the parents

  • Any reports of abuse or neglect

The court will also not only register the child’s preference but will also look at the child’s age and maturity to see how much weight that preference should carry. So, if your child is a high-achieving, straight-A student with a healthy social life, his or her wishes are likely to matter. But if your child often skips school and prefers to play video games during free time, his or her preference is not as likely to hold sway with the court.

How Does a Court Measure a Child’s Maturity?

The question then becomes: how does a court gauge a child’s maturity to know how much weight to give to his or her choice?

For one thing, maturity increases with age. Some states specify 14 as the minimum age when courts strongly consider the child’s preference, whereas compared to an older child, the choice of a child who is younger than eight may not carry much weight. Illinois law does not specify an age either way, so it is up to the court’s discretion.

Another factor that may interest a court is the child’s school performance, which helps the judge determine the child’s level of intelligence and maturity. The child’s emotional and mental health is also taken into account. A judge may gauge this by asking the child questions to see if the child understands the consequences of his or her choice. In some cases, a judge might order a professional evaluation of the child by a psychologist or evaluator.

Contact a Plainfield, IL Family Lawyer

The experienced attorneys at Law Offices of Tedone and Morton, P.C. are well-versed in family law and aggressive about getting you the best result possible. If you are unsure how your child’s preferences will be received by a judge, consult with a Joliet, Illinois family law attorney who is experienced in child custody matters. Our lawyers will be able to give you an idea of how a court will consider your child’s wishes and help you create a strategy most likely to achieve a favorable outcome. 

Call 815-666-1285 for a free consultation today. 

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