November 20, 2022
Any parents who are going through a divorce or child custody case likely have concerns about how the court will decide child custody. It is important to know that courts in Illinois no longer award child custody, but instead allocate parental responsibilities. The allocation of parental responsibilities involves the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. You might be wondering: when courts allocate parental responsibilities, will they take your child’s wishes into account? In other words, do children have a say in who they want to live with in a child custody case? Illinois courts do not rely solely on a child’s wishes, but a child’s wishes can be considered in a child custody case. Our Chicago child custody lawyers can explain in more detail.
Before the circumstances in which a court can consider a child’s preference concerning who they want to live with in a child custody case, it is important to understand how courts make decisions about the child’s living situation. Parenting time, which is one form of parental responsibilities allocated in a child custody case, involves caretaking functions and making day-to-day decisions about the child’s well-being. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), parenting time also involves overnights with the child. Accordingly, when parents have parenting time, that is time during which the child will be living with that parent.
Generally speaking, courts in Illinois presume that both parents should be allocated parenting time unless the child’s health or safety necessitates a restriction on parenting time. Accordingly, children often live with both parents at different times following a child custody case. When does the child get to say who they want to live with?
In determining parenting time, and the specific schedule that the parents and child will follow, courts consider a wide range of factors listed in the IMDMA concerning the best interests of the child. One of those factors is the “wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time.” Depending upon the circumstances, the court “may interview the child in chambers to ascertain the child’s wishes as to the allocation of parental responsibilities,” according to the IMDMA.
In addition to the wishes of the child, the IMDMA lists 15 other specific factors that the court can weigh when allocating parenting time, as well as factors that are not expressly listed but that the court finds relevant to the case. Accordingly, a child’s wishes might be taken into account by the court, but the child’s wishes likely will not be the single deciding factor in determining parenting time or where the child will reside.
Child custody cases in Illinois can be complicated, and it is important for parents to understand the range of factors that courts use in making decisions about the allocation of parental responsibilities. Depending upon the circumstances, the court may consider your child’s wishes in making a determination about parenting time. Our Chicago child custody lawyers can provide you with more information, and we can speak with you today about your case. Contact Women’s Divorce & Family Law Group to learn more about the services we provide to clients in Illinois.