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Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in an Illinois Divorce?

 Posted on November 11, 2021 in Divorce

Kane County Divorce LawyerDivorce is that much harder when there are children involved. Deciding who will get parenting time (formerly called physical custody) and when can be a highly emotional process as well as a complicated legal one. Illinois courts always consider the best interests of the child when allocating parenting time and parental responsibilities. In considering the best interests of a child, courts will be interested in hearing what the child wants -- but the child’s wishes are not dispositive. Children, much like adults, may fail to act in their own best interest. This is why the judgment of the court is the ultimate deciding factor. 

If you are going through a divorce or separation from your child’s other parent, you will want a strong legal advocate on your side. The relationship you have with your child is precious and should be protected by an experienced attorney during parenting time proceedings. 

What is the Importance of the Child’s Wishes? 

When there is a dispute over parenting time and parental responsibility, courts will often appoint a special person called a Guardian ad Litem. The Guardian ad Litem will interview the child alone to get a sense of what the child wants and needs and how living with each parent would affect the child. To determine what arrangement would be in the child’s best interests, the court will take into consideration what the child wants. 

However, the child does not have the right to choose for themself who they want to live with. Depending on the age and maturity of the child, the court may not feel that the child is ready to make such an important decision, or may not feel that the child’s request is in their best interest. During contested divorces, there are cases where one parent tries to manipulate a young child by “coaching” them on what to say in an effort to get sole custody. This is one of several reasons the court may take a young child’s words with a grain of salt. 

The court will also consider factors like how the child would adjust to moving between residences, what impact a joint parenting time arrangement would have on their schooling and extracurricular activities, and whether both parents are able to provide a safe and suitable environment. Children may want to live with the “fun” parent, even if that parent is “fun” because they fail to provide reasonable supervision or discipline or allow the child to engage in dangerous activities. This is one case where the court is likely to overrule the child’s request. 

However, when a child turns 14 years old, the court will take their requests more seriously. At that age, courts are likely to believe that the child is capable of making choices in their own interest. However, the judge will overrule the child’s decision if he does not deem it in their best interests.

Call a Kane County Child Custody Lawyer 

If you are facing child custody concerns, Serrano Hanson is here to help. Our experienced Geneva parenting time attorneys are dedicated to protecting the relationships between parents and children. Call 630-844-8781 for a confidential consultation. 




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