In Illinois, children don’t have the prerogative to choose which parent to live with and can only do so after turning 18. Illinois courts view a person under 18 as a minor who cannot make crucial legal decisions. When a child turns 14 years, courts may take his or her preferences into account. Courts ensure that final decisions about parenting time and responsibilities serve the best interests of the child.
As a general rule, courts try to maximize the parenting time for each parent. The objective is to ensure the child spends maximum time with each parent.
How Does the Court Determine the Child’s Best Interests?
To better serve the interests of a child, courts take into account several factors, including:
- How the child is adjusting to the current school
- How far the parents live from each other
- The physical, mental, moral, and emotional health of the child
- Degree of involvement of each parent in the child’s life
- Child’s preferences on parenting time and parental responsibilities
In simple terms, the court considers the child’s preferences important. The court doesn’t base its decision on which parent the child lives with entirely on these preferences. The court may at times override a child’s preferences if it considers them to be against the child’s best interests. This decision helps safeguard a child from emotional manipulation by one parent.
Courts usually appoint a guardian ad litem (“GAL”) when resolving parenting time and responsibilities issues. The guardian ad litem works closely with children to gain a clear understanding of what better serves their interests when it comes to parenting time.
Age of 14
If a child has turned 14 years and if the court considers the child mature enough to make reasonable contributions, the judge is more likely to take the child’s opinion and preferences into account. Since the child’s preference may be instrumental in serving his or her best interests, the court is less likely to overlook them entirely.
Modifying Parenting Time Schedules
Illinois law gives the courts the power to modify parenting time schedules whenever the modification is in the child’s or children’s best interests. The party requesting modification carries the burden of proof. A family law attorney can review the current parenting plan of a party seeking modification, determine the available legal options, and develop a working strategy for that party’s case.