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Does My Child Get a Say During Custody Proceedings?

 Posted on May 03, 2018 in Child Custody

Lombard family law attorneysSince 2016, child custody has been formally known as the allocation of parental responsibilities in the state of Illinois. If you and your child’s other parent are involved in a dispute over how such responsibilities should be divided, you may have had several discussions with your child about the situation. In fact, your child may even very strong feelings about where he or she wants to live and how much time should be spent with each parent.

When you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement on your own, the court will be required to step in a make custody decisions for you. In doing so, the court will hear from both you and your former partner, but what about your child? Does he or she get the chance to be heard? The answer, in most cases, is yes, but the court is by no means obligated to give the child what he or she wants.

A Combination of Variables

Judges in Illinois must consider a large number of factors when deciding how to divide parental responsibilities, including each party’s health, the wishes of each parent, and each parent’s participation in past decision-making for the child. The child’s wishes are also among these factors.

The court, however, must also figure out how much credence to give the child’s opinion, based on criteria such as:

  • The child’s age and maturity level;
  • The child’s mental and emotional health and overall stability;
  • The child’s relationships with family members including siblings and each parent;
  • How the child fares in school and in the community;
  • The living situation offered in each of the parent’s homes; and
  • How the child’s wishes might affect familial relationships.

Put simply, the court may listen to what the child wants but is only obligated to make decisions that are in the child’s best interests. In practice, this means that the court may be required to override the child’s desires because the child is not equipped to realize that what he or she wants is not really what is best.

A Word of Caution

Courts are also aware that children are very easily influenced by their parents, even during courtroom proceedings. It is up to the judge to be sure that neither parent is attempting to coach the child so as to manipulate the case’s outcome. Reasonable discussions with your child are fine, but you should never try to influence your child into rehashing your arguments. If what you want is truly in your child’s best interest, the court will likely side with you anyway. In the event that the judge suspects that either parent is trying to manipulate the child, a guardian ad litem will likely be appointed to determine what child really wants.

If you have additional concerns about the allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois, contact an experienced Lombard family law attorney. Call 630-426-0196 to get the answers you need today.



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