Can Children Decide Which Parent They Will Live With After Divorce?
Divorce can be very difficult for everyone who is affected by a couple’s breakup, including their children. One of the biggest concerns children of divorcing parents may have is how their living situation might change and when they will spend time with each parent following the divorce. In many cases, parents and children alike may expect that children will play a role in making decisions about their living arrangements. Although children’s opinions and desires may be a factor in some cases, this will not necessarily be true in every situation. When addressing child custody matters, a family law attorney can help ensure that children’s best interests are protected.
Parenting Time in Illinois
In divorce cases, the time children spend with each parent is commonly referred to as “physical custody” or “visitation.” However, in 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was modified, and those terms are no longer used. Today, the time children spend with each parent is referred to as “parenting time.” The law recognizes that it is in children’s best interests to have regular, ongoing time with each parent, and during divorce, parents will need to create a parenting plan that includes a schedule for when children will live with each parent. The parenting plan will also address how parents will divide the responsibility for making important decisions for their children, such as where they will go to school and what religion they will be raised in.
Do Children Have a Choice Where They Will Live?
One prevailing myth that people may have heard states that once a child turns 14, the court will consider him or her to be mature enough to make a decision about where he or she wants to live. However, this is not a provision that is included in Illinois law. When making decisions about parenting time, a judge will take many factors into consideration to determine what is in the best interests of the child. The child’s desires are one of these factors, and a judge may listen to what a child has to say and take any preferences he or she has into consideration. Rather than identifying an age at which a child’s preferences will be considered, the law states that a judge may consider the child’s wishes if he or she is mature enough to be able to express his or her “reasoned and independent” preferences.
Since each case will be addressed based on the unique issues involved, a child’s age will not necessarily affect whether his or her preferences will be considered. For example, if a mature 12-year-old can testify as to why he or she wants to live with one parent, and he or she can provide strong reasons for this choice, a judge may take those preferences into consideration. On the other hand, if a 17-year-old only wants to live with one parent because that parent has more relaxed rules, a judge would likely give less weight to those desires.
Contact a Palatine Parenting Time Attorney
When addressing where children will live and how parenting time will be divided following divorce, you will want to work with an experienced family law attorney. Dedicated Arlington Heights child custody lawyer Nicholas W. Richardson can advise you of your rights in these cases and help you resolve these issues in a way that protects your children’s best interests. Call our office today at 847.873.6741 to schedule a free consultation.