Suppose that you have been divorced for several years. You and your ex-spouse have managed to avoid any major controversies or conflicts, including any serious disagreements surrounding custody and parenting time of your child. That all changes one day when your child tells you that he or she would like to live with you instead of his or her other parent. There may be any number of reasons why your child has made this request, such as:
- Perhaps the child has gotten into a disagreement or been disciplined by the other parent in a way that the child does not like;
- Maybe the child’s friends will soon be attending another school next year and this school is closer to you and/or you will allow the child to attend the school; or
- Maybe still the child feels he or she has not had a sufficient opportunity to visit with you under the current parenting plan.
Can your child’s wishes and desires affect an Illinois parenting plan? More importantly, how would a court consider and react to your child’s request to live with you?
A Child’s Opinion Is Important – but Not Determinative – in Child-Custody Proceedings
Contrary to the beliefs of some, there is no “magic age” at which a minor child gets to determine the parent with whom he or she will live. (Obviously, once a child turns 18 years of age he or she is free to live wherever he or she would like). Instead, Illinois law directs the judge hearing a custody matter to consider a number of factors – including the wishes of the child – in determining which parent will be designated as the primary residential parent. The judge has discretion to afford as much or as little weight to your child’s wishes as he or she chooses.
In deciding how much weight to afford your child’s wishes, the court will consider: (1) how old your child is; (2) the maturity of your child; (3) the amount of thought and consideration your child has put into the decision; (4) the reasons your child expresses for wanting to live with you; and (5) how the proposed change in residency might help or harm the child. Depending on the child’s age and specific circumstances, a court may also consider testimony from any therapists the child sees and/or enlist the help of a guardian ad litem before deciding whether to allow the residency of the child to be changed.
Do Not Change Custody Arrangements on Your Own
Unless the child’s health or welfare is in immediate danger and/or the other parent agrees in writing to change in your custody arrangement, do not attempt to modify the custody arrangement without court approval. Allowing your child to come live with you without the other parent’s approval and/or without the court’s approval can result in you being found to be in contempt and assessed fines and penalties.
Our skilled DuPage County family law attorneys can help you modify your current child custody arrangement if the other parent is not agreeable to changing these arrangements. Contact us to learn how our knowledge and experience can help you obtain a custody arrangement that is in your and your child’s best interests.