Few issues in an Illinois divorce are as contentious as determining which parent will have primary custody of the couple’s children following their divorce or legal separation. Even when this issue has been initially decided, custody can be an issue that is litigated over and over throughout the child’s youth. There are a variety of reasons why noncustodial parents seek to change custody orders:
- The child’s health or wellbeing may be threatened if he or she were to remain with the other parent;
- The noncustodial parent no longer wants to pay child support or wants the other parent to pay him or her child support; or
- The noncustodial parent wants some validation that the other parent is a “bad parent.”
Regardless of the reason underlying the desired change of custody, changing custody orders involves much more than simply showing you are a better parent than your ex-partner.
“The Child’s Best Interests”
Whenever a court makes a determination regarding custody, it decides the issue by considering the “best interest” of the child. The “best interest” of the child is a difficult term to define: it requires the court to consider not just the physical wellbeing of the child but the child’s emotional and mental wellbeing, also. In some custody disputes, the court may consider testimony from experts like psychologists who have worked with the child or teachers; in other cases, the court will consider just the testimony and evidence presented by the parents concerning the best interests of the child.
Although each custody dispute is different, there are some things that are routinely found to be in the child’s best interest:
- An opportunity to develop a parent-child relationship with each parent;
- Stability in terms of the child’s residence, school, neighborhood, and friends;
- Insofar as the parents are willing to allow it, contact with extended family members;
- A home that is free of physical, mental, verbal, and sexual abuse; and
- An environment with appropriate discipline to safeguard the child’s wellbeing and encourage the development of the child.
How Can I Change Custody?
Changing an existing custody order begins with the filing of a motion with the court stating that you want the existing custody orders changed, the changes you are requesting, and a brief description of why you believe that changing the orders would be in the best interest of the child.
The court may order the parties to attempt to mediate the dispute before a hearing is scheduled. If a hearing becomes necessary, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the interests of the child (in rare circumstances) or the court may ask for the assistance of one or more professionals in evaluating what the child’s best interests actually are.
At a hearing, you bear the burden of producing sufficient evidence to show that the current custody orders are not in the child’s best interests and that your proposed plan is. Having more or less money or resources than the other parent, or having a young child say that he or she wants to live with you, will generally not be enough to change custody.
Contact the Abear Law Offices for Help with Custody Orders
If you are concerned for your child’s wellbeing, modifying the existing custody orders may be warranted. Contact the skilled Wheaton family law attorneys at Abear Law Offices for assistance. We can evaluate your situation, advise of whether there is a sufficient reason to request custody orders be changed, and help you prepare and present your motion to the court.