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

Posted on in Child Custody

Algonquin Family Law AttorneysDivorce can be really difficult for everyone involved, but especially for a young child whose parents are splitting up. Parents often fight over the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly called “child custody”) or parenting time (formerly called “visitation”). Their child might feel torn between trying to be loyal to both parents. In Illinois (and every state), a person under 18 years old is considered a minor and in most cases, unable to make legal decisions. Illinois courts consider the age of the children and the children’s wishes as well as family circumstances in deciding child-related issues.     

Best Interest of the Child 

Some people think there is a certain age at which a child can choose which parent with whom he or she wants to live, but that is a misconception. In Illinois, 14 years old is generally age at which a child’s opinion starts to be considered more by the court regarding under whose roof he or she will live. However, this is also based on the level of maturity of the child in question. For example, a mature 11-year-old boy may prefer to live with one parent because he attends a private school in the town where that parent lives. A 15-year-old girl may state she wants to live in the house where the parent does not enforce many rules or where there are no step-siblings if a spouse remarries. Ultimately, the court’s decision is based on which living situation or environment is in the best interest of the child.

In general, Illinois courts recognize “legal custody” and “physical custody.” Legal custody gives a parent or guardian the right to make important decisions, such as where a child will attend school or go to church. The term physical custody refers to which parent with whom the child will live. Like in other states, sometimes one parent (sole custody) or both (joint custody) parents can have legal and/or physical custody in Illinois.
A judge will take into consideration many factors regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities (custody), including but not limited to:

  • Each parent’s preference for custody;
  • The child’s wishes regarding custody;
  • The child’s relationship with each parent;
  • The child’s relationship with any siblings;
  • The child’s participation in school and community;
  • The child’s home life situation;
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health/well-being;
  • The child’s physical and mental health/well-being;
  • A history of domestic violence by either parent (even if it was not directed at the child);
  • Each parent’s willingness to promote a relationship between the child and other parent; and
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant.

A judge will also carefully review any other circumstances that have the potential to impact the child’s safety or well-being. A court is required to give both parents an opportunity for the most involvement in their child’s life if they are willing and able (except in cases of abuse). When the divorce involves siblings, the judge will consider each sibling’s needs individually. In some cases, this may result in siblings being separated if custody is awarded to different parents.

Illinois, along with other states, joined the Uniform Child Custody Act (UCCA), the purpose of which is to reduce interstate allocation of parental responsibility disputes. Illinois child custody laws allow parents and guardians the option of joint custody and also recognize grandparent visitation rights, in addition to other things.

Contact a Barrington Allocation of Parental Responsibilities Lawyer

There is no denying that a divorce can be difficult for the spouses and a child. Determining where the couple’s child will live after the break-up can be a very emotional decision. Courts typically order what is in the best interest of the child depending on the circumstances. If you are facing this milestone, the Law Offices of Benedict Schwarz II, P.C. can help you through the process of allocating parental responsibilities. Contact an Algonquin divorce attorney today at 630-200-4882 for a free consultation.





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