Child’s Preference in Illinois Custody Cases
One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is dealing with child custody. The possibility of having to relocate or switch schools, in addition to spending less time with both parents, can leave a child feeling stressed, anxious and opinionated about the parent with whom he or she wants to live. However, when making an award of child custody or visitation, the Court must consider the child’s best interests. Additionally, there are a number of factors the Court must weigh. One factor is a child’s preference, pending the Court determines that the child has “sufficient maturity to express a preference.”
Best Interests and Child Preference in Illinois Custody Awards
Unlike some states, Illinois does not have a definite age at which a Judge must consider a child’s preference. Therefore, a Judge has wide discretion in determining whether or not to give any weight to a child’s preference, or even if a child will be allowed to express a preference.
Although it is safe to assume that the Court will not consider the preference of a very young child, the question remains, what would be considered “sufficient maturity” to cause a Judge to factor in a child’s preference? Much depends on the logic behind the child’s preference.
For example, the Court would likely place great weight on the opinion of a 12-year-old boy who wants to live with his father because doing so will allow the boy to remain at his current school where he is the star hockey player. Whereas, if custody were given to his mother, the boy would have to move to a different town without a hockey team. These are logical reasons for wanting to reside with the father; moving would cause a big disruption in the boy’s life.
On the other hand, the Court would likely give little weight to the opinion of a 16-year-old girl who did not want to live with her father because he imposed curfews that she thought infringed on her social life. This example indicates a clear lack of maturity on the daughter’s part, as her chief complaint with living with her father is rules that she disagrees with.
Even when taking into consideration a child’s preference when making a child custody decision, the Court considers many factors.
Palatine Child Custody Attorney
Divorce is stressful on both parent and child. Additionally, determining child custody and visitation can become more troublesome when a child expresses parental preference. However, Palatine child custody attorney Nicholas W. Richardson has more than 10 years’ experience handling custody matters. His experience, compassion and understanding will guide you through the process. Contact the office today to schedule a consultation.