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When Is a Child Old Enough to Decide Which Parent to Live With?

 Posted on September 08, 2022 in Family Law Blog

IL family lawyerDivorcing parents in Illinois frequently disagree about the best way to arrange shared parenting time and parental responsibilities. After so many years of an unhappy marriage, it can feel like negotiating your relationship with your child is too much to ask. Many children are caught between parents who cannot agree on a parenting plan and often, both the parents and children are dissatisfied with the eventual outcome.

But children grow older and as they do, they begin to develop more mature relationships with their parents. This can include a more nuanced perspective on their parents’ divorce, as well as strong preferences for a parenting arrangement that may be different from the current court order. As a child’s personality continues to develop, he or she may express a desire to spend more time with one parent than the current schedule allows. For the parent with whom the child wants to spend more time, this may be a welcome adjustment - but where do you go from here?

Can A Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

In the best-case scenario, a child who declares his or her preference to change the parenting time schedule will have the preference affirmed by both parents, who will then willingly approach the court and modify the parenting plan. However, this is frequently not the case.

Parents do not necessarily have to change the parenting plan with the court, but unless both parents explicitly agree to change the current parenting arrangements without going to court, everybody still needs to follow the existing parenting plan - including the child. Even if both parents say they agree to modify the parenting time schedule, the parents should still file a parenting plan modification in order to modify the existing plan to reflect the new, agreed-upon schedule.

If parents disagree about where a child should spend his or her time, a protracted custody battle may be in the future. Illinois law says that the wishes of a child regarding a parenting time arrangement can be considered by the court, but whether the child gets a significant amount of influence in the proceedings depends on the age and maturity of the child, as well as the reasons for his or her preferences. Children may feel as though a parent with more relaxed disciplinary standards is the parent they would rather live with, but a judge might disagree that looser boundaries would be in a child’s best interests.

Both parents must be prepared to tell a judge why their proposed parenting time schedule is better for the child along with providing supporting evidence. Evidence could include report cards, psychological evaluations for the child and the parents, testimony from adults who know the child, and a report from a guardian ad litem or custody evaluator making a suggestion to the court.

Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney

If you are the parent of a minor child and are wondering whether your child can choose to spend more time with you, call the offices of A. Traub & Associates today at 630-426-0196. Our Lombard, IL family law attorneys can help you understand your rights and assist you in petitioning for a modification in parenting time if necessary.




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