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Can Your Children Choose Whom to Live With?

Posted in Family Law on Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

If you are divorcing in the State of Illinois and are in agreement with your divorcing spouse regarding child custody arrangements, you can decide on any kind of child custody arrangement that you would like as long as it is in the best interests of the child. If, however, you and your spouse cannot find common ground on this important decision, the judge will intervene on your behalf. While the court’s decision is always based on what it considers to be in the children’s best interests, it takes a variety of factors into consideration in the process. If you have child custody concerns, consult with an experienced Joliet family law attorney today. 

The Court’s Considerations

In determining those custody arrangements that are in a child’s best interests, the court can take many factors into consideration, including:

  • Each parent’s preference
  • The child’s relationships with each parent and with his or her siblings
  • The child’s home life
  • The child’s level of involvement with his or her school and community
  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • The physical and mental health of the child
  • Whether either parent has a history of domestic violence
  • Each parent’s willingness to foster a healthy relationship between the other parent and the child
  • Anything else that the court finds relevant, which can include the child’s personal preference

When Is a Child’s Preference Taken into Consideration?

In Illinois, the court will take a child’s custodial preference into consideration, but it is not likely to give that preference much weight unless the child is mature enough to demonstrate that he or she applied reasoning to formulate that preference. Further, there is no age cutoff for this determination – every custody arrangement is decided on a case-by-case basis, and each child’s level of maturity is considered individually. Judges always proceed with caution when it comes to weighing a child’s preferences because children are generally more vulnerable to manipulation, and one or the other parent could be using the child as a weapon in the divorce. 

Will My Child Be Required to Testify?

Unless it’s an extreme situation, children rarely need to testify in open court regarding their custody preferences. Instead, children are generally protected from the rigors and stress of such testimony. Judges will often appoint a licensed social worker, therapist, or guardian ad litem – an agent or attorney whose job it is to represent the child – to meet with the child and to discern his or her preferences and attendant reasoning. These professionals are tasked with determining children’s wishes and relaying them back to the court. 

Alternatively, the judge may choose to speak with the child in his or her chambers. In such instances, both parents’ attorneys and a court reporter should be in attendance. The resulting transcript can stand in for the child’s testimony in court if need be. 

If You Have Child Custody Questions, Consult with an Experienced Joliet Family Lawyer Today

If you are going through a divorce, your most pressing concerns naturally focus on child custody arrangements. The dedicated family lawyers at Sabuco, Beck, Hansen & Massino, P.C. in Joliet, Illinois, have the experience, skill, and compassion to help you. For more information, please contact us today.

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