Modify Custody Orders in Illinois
When circumstances change, get the court to modify the original custody order.
Life has a way of throwing the unexpected at us for better or for worse, and inevitably our circumstances will change. This is why the court allows for the modification of child custody, also known as “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” in Illinois. That said, the court is not going to change your court-ordered agreement unless there is a good reason. You will have to make a strong case for why something in your life has changed drastically enough to affect the child.
Proving a Change in Circumstances
Before filing a petition to modify an order, it is important to understand what the court considers when hearing a petition to modify an order so you can make a strong case. Keep in mind, unless there's a serious change of circumstances, there is a moratorium on making modifications within two years. Here are some of the circumstances that may constitute an immediate change in parental responsibilities:
- If the child is at risk, mentally or physically, in their current living arrangement.
- The child has developed or is at risk of developing psychological problems that can be attributed to their present environment.
- The child has developed social problems that can be attributed to the custodial parent.
- Clear evidence of physical or sexual abuse of the child.
- If it is proven that the custodial parent is living with a convicted sex offender.
- A sharp decline in the child's performance in school or extra-curricular activities.
- Imprisonment of the custodial parent.
After two years, several other factors may be considered, such as the two spouses moving a substantial distance away from each other. Regardless, the court will always rule based on the best interests of the child, not the personal preferences of either parent.
What WILL NOT Work in Court
Before you spend the time and resources attempting to modify child custody, it's best to understand the following common examples that are unlikely to change a custody order:
- Failure to adhere to an agreed upon parenting schedule. If your spouse is not allowing the child to see you during your scheduled days, the court is likely to enforce the currently standing order, not modify it.
- A change of circumstance for either parent. Just because things in your life have changed, for better or for worse, as long as they don't significantly affect the well-being of the child the court won't consider them.
- If the custodial parent has legally moved the child to another state, has informed the other spouse and not violated custody agreements, the court won't factor it into your custody change case unless the move would significantly affect the best interests of the child.
As you've probably noticed, the term “best interests” of the child comes up a lot. At the end of the day, this is how the court will make any determination in regards to parental responsibility and parenting time. There are many factors that determine how the court determines this, but you having disagreements or plain disliking your spouse is not one of them. So if you do feel that a modification of your parental responsibilities (custody) is in order, make sure that it comes from the place of what's best for the child, not for you.
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