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Modify Child Custody in Illinois

To change child custody or placement in Illinois, you must file a motion to modify child custody. Unless the child is in danger, you cannot modify custody until two years have passed since the last judgment. If two years have passed, then a modification can be made if there has been a significant change in circumstances.

Having issues with custody or placement of your children? If the other party isn’t open to making a change, it may be time to file a motion with the courts. It’s not easy to get a modification, but if it’s in the best interest of the child, it’s worth it.

Modifying Custody and Placement in Illinois

Child custody and placement can be modified when necessary. Custody (or parental responsibilities) refers to who has decision-making abilities over the child. Placement (or parenting time) is where the child is day-to-day and who takes care of them.

It is important for children to have stability in where they live, so the court tries not to change custody and placement once an order is set. And they only change it when it is in the child's best interests. They find the child’s best interest by looking at the custody and placement factors outlined in Illinois’s laws.

To change custody, you’ll need to file the correct paperwork and go through the court process.

Steps to Change a Custody Order

  1. Get the current custody (parental responsibilities) order.
  2. Fill out your custody modification forms.
    • Motion to Modify Parental Responsibilities
    • Notice of Motion
    • Affidavit
    • Child Support Forms (if relevant)
  3. File your forms with your local county’s court.
  4. Tell the other party about your petition and the upcoming court date through legal service.
  5. Go to your hearing.
  6. Prepare an allocation of parental responsibilities order outlining the change in custody and placement.

Even after you file the correct paperwork, the court will only change custody orders for certain reasons.

Download Forms to Modify Custody

For Immediate help with your family law case or answering any questions please call (312) 757-8082 now!

Reasons to Change Custody

The court separates modifying custody into two time frames. The two time frames are before or after two years have passed since the last child custody agreement.

The reasons for changing custody differ depending on which time frame your case is in. The court will not hear a case of under two years if there isn’t serious endangerment of the child’s well-being.[1]

But, if it has been over two years, the court will hear the case if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.

Serious Endangerment

The court will listen to a motion to modify custody even if it hasn’t been two years if there is serious endangerment to the child’s mental, moral, or physical health. They will also listen to a case if the current environment is going to significantly impair the child’s emotional development.

One example of this endangerment is if a parent moves in with or marries a sex offender.

A Change in Circumstances

To get a modification to custody after two years, you must show there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that the change would be in the best interests of the child. Some examples of a substantial change in circumstances include:

  • A distinct decline in the child’s performance in school or extracurricular activities.
  • The child developed social problems because of a parent.
  • A parent starts a new job with a completely new schedule.
  • The child gets a serious illness or health condition.
  • The child is at risk of or has developed psychological problems due to their environment.
  • The parent moves more than 25 miles away (or 50 miles in some counties).

If you want to know whether the court will view your situation as a substantial change in circumstances, speak with a family law attorney. Sterling Lawyers, LLC attorneys only practice family law, so we have seen many of these cases and know when the court will hear a case.

Exceptions to a Change in Circumstances

In some instances, custody and placement can be changed without needing to show a change in circumstances. These exceptions include:

  • When the modification reflects a current situation that has been in place for at least six months.
  • When the modification is a minor adjustment to the parenting plan or custody agreement.
  • When there is new evidence that should have been present in the previous case proving the previous agreement was not in the child’s best interest.
  • When both parties agree to the modification.[2]

Enforcement vs. Modification of Custody and Placement

In some situations, the court will enforce the current custody order rather than modify it. One example of this is if a parent is not adhering to the current parenting plan. For example, they may be late picking up the child or not abiding by the parenting plan.

Rather than change the order, the court will enforce the one currently in place. If the problems worsen or continue, a modification could be possible.

Are you ready to move forward? Call (312) 757-8082 to schedule a strategy session with one of our attorneys.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I modify a custody order in Illinois?

To modify a custody order (parental responsibilities order), you must get the proper paperwork then file it with the court. The court will only modify the custody order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. And if it hasn’t been two years since the last custody order, the court will only make a modification in extreme circumstances.

At what age can a child refuse to see a parent in Illinois?

There is no set age when a child can choose not to see one of their parents. The court always considers the child’s preferences, but the court decides based on what is in the child’s best interest. The older and more mature the child is, the more their opinion will matter to the court.

What is considered an unfit parent in Illinois?

An unfit parent is one that cannot take care of their child. This could be due to incarceration, mental illness, abandonment, or several other negative circumstances.

Can a father win custody in Illinois?

Yes, a father can win custody of their child in Illinois. The court rules based on what is in the child’s best interest. So, if it is in the child’s best interest to be with the father, that is how the court will rule on the case.

How often can you modify child support in Illinois?

Usually, you can modify child support every three years. But it can be modified sooner than that if there has been a significant change to either party’s financial situation.

What are grounds for custody modification?

The grounds for custody modification differ depending on your situation. If the last custody orders were put in place less than two years ago, then the grounds for custody modification are the child being in danger. If the last orders were put in place more than two years ago, then grounds for modification are a significant change in circumstances.

Can you change a parenting plan in Illinois?

Yes, a parenting plan can be changed in Illinois. A parenting plan can be adjusted as needed if both parents agree. If only one parent wants to change it, then there will need to be a court case.

How do I change my marital settlement agreement?

It is rare that a marital settlement agreement needs to be changed. This usually only happens when new information comes out that should have been present during the case. For example, if a party was hiding assets, the marital settlement agreement can be adjusted.
Something similar to this is the enforcement of the marital settlement agreement. This happens more often because the court enforces the agreement when someone doesn’t follow through on something they agreed to.

References: 1. 750 ILCS § 5/610.5 (a). Modification. | 2. 750 ILCS § 5/610.5 (e)(1-4).

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