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When Can a Child Choose Which Parent She Wants to Live With in Illinois?

 Posted on January 19, 2022 in Divorce

cook county child custody lawyerDivorce is hard on kids in Illinois. They have little to no control over the situation, very little understanding of why it is happening, and often are left to deal with intense emotional fallout from parents who cannot cooperate. Parents who are unable to agree on issues like parenting time and parental responsibilities can expose their children to protracted arguments in which the children feel pressured to take a side. While children are young and impressionable, parents may feel they have successfully “won” their child’s affection and managed to keep them from the other parent. 

But, eventually, children grow up and begin to see the world more clearly. Add to that a hefty dose of teenage hormones, and parents may find they suddenly have a child who prefers their other parent. It can be very difficult to see your child express a preference to live with their other parent, but Illinois courts do take the preferences of the children into account when making decisions about where the child will spend their time. To learn more about when a child can choose the parent they want to live with, read on. 

What is in the Best Interest of the Child? 

There is a hard and fast age at which a child can make an autonomous decision about which parent to live with: 18 (or 19 if the child is still in high school). Before that, Illinois generally allows children’s preferences to be taken into more serious consideration around age 14, but it depends on the maturity of the child and the circumstances of each parent. Children will often decide they want to live with one parent based on a perceived lack of structure or discipline, or because they do not want to live with step-siblings after a remarriage. 

Because children often have short-sighted or immature perspectives on what makes a good parent, Illinois courts will take the preferences of the child into account along with other important factors - the most crucial of which is the best interest of the child. Other factors include: 

  • The parents’ preferences

  • The child’s relationship with her parents

  • The child’s relationship with her siblings

  • The child’s school, community, and religious environment

  • Each parent’s home situation

  • Each parent’s mental and physical health

  • Whether either parent has a history of domestic violence towards a parent or the child

  • Any other relevant factors 

Illinois courts allow both parents the opportunity to be involved in their child’s life whenever possible. Even if a child wants to live primarily with one parent, that does not mean that she will not be required to spend time with the other parent. 

Call a Rolling Meadows, IL Parenting Time Lawyer

If your child has decided he or she wants to live with your former spouse, you may want to petition for a modification in your parenting plan. To learn more about when children can have more say over when they want to live with a parent, schedule a free limited consultation with an experienced Skokie, IL parenting plan modification attorney with The Law Offices of Curtis Bennett Ross, L.L.C.. We can help you understand your options and work with you on an arrangement to keep your child safe and happy. Call us today at 312-984-1514.



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