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Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live with in Illinois?

When deciding parenting time or parental responsibilities, a child gets some say in who they live with. The child is a minor, so they cannot make a legally binding decision for themself. But the court does take their opinion into consideration. How much the court values their opinion depends on the age and maturity of the child.

The court looks at many factors when deciding who gets custody or placement of a child. One of those factors is the wishes of the child. This means that the court will take the child’s wishes into account, but no, they are not able to decide which parent they get to live with.

The Wishes of the Child

When the court decides where the child lives and which parent gets custody of them, the court considers what’s in the best interest of the child. Illinois’s state statutes list a variety of factors for the court to look at when determining the child’s best interest.

And while one of the first factors listed is “the wishes of the child,”[1] they also look at things like whether there is any history of abuse and if the child will face any major adjustments.

The court believes that what a child wants may not always be what is in their best interest. The court must make their own decision because certain actions, like a parent giving gifts, could sway a child’s opinion.

For this reason, the court values some factors more than others in specific situations. For example, a child who is older or who can explain their preference will have more support from the court.

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How Old Does a Child Have to Be to Declare Parental Preference in Illinois?

There is no set age when a child gets to decide who they live with. Other than when they are 18, but then they are no longer a child.

The older and more mature a child is, the more the court will value their opinion. For example, if a child is 17 and sound of mind, it is unlikely the court will order something significantly different from what the child wants.

If the Kids Can't Choose, Then How Does the Court Decide Custody and Placement?

The court decides based on the child custody factors outlined in the Illinois state statutes. One of those factors is the wishes of the child, so while they cannot choose, they do have some say. Some of the other factors they look at include the needs of the child, the wishes of the parent, and the mental and physical health of all the parties involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age can a child choose who they live with in Illinois?

The only set age where someone can choose where they live is 18. In custody cases, children always get to express where they want to live, but the court does not have to rule with the child’s wishes. Instead, they look at a variety of factors to see what is in the child’s best interest.

Is Illinois a mom State?

Illinois is not a mom state. Instead, they are a best interest state. This means the court works to create child custody and placement orders that are in the best interest of the child. The court will only place a child with someone who is beneficials to their well-being.

What age can a child choose not to visit a parent in Illinois?

There is no specific age when a child can choose not to visit with a parent. If it is not in the best interest of the child to see that parent, then the other parent can file to modify child custody.

What are the different types of child custody in Illinois?

The two types of child custody are shared custody and sole custody. With shared or joint custody, both parents make major decisions for the child. With sole custody, only one parent makes major decisions for a child.

What are father’s rights in Illinois?

In Illinois, fathers have very similar rights to the rights that mothers have in reference to their child. Once a father has established paternity, they are able to begin a child custody case. The child custody case will give parenting time and decision-making authority to either or both parents depending on what is in the best interest of the child.

What is considered an unfit parent in Illinois?

Illinois law strictly defines what behaviors might constitute someone being an unfit parent. Some of these behaviors include abandonment, abuse, and neglect.
Proving a parent is unfit in the context of parental responsibility and parenting time is no small task. Personal dislike and grudges will not be enough. You need solid evidence that the other parent has negatively impacted the well-being of the child.

Reference: 1. 750 ILCS § 5/602.5 (c)(1). Allocation of Parental Responsibilities.

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