Going through a child custody case in Illinois can be extremely difficult and complicated, especially when the parents cannot reach an agreement about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time is in dispute. As you may know, under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), courts do not award child custody to one or both parents, but instead allocate parental responsibilities. Those parental responsibilities include significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. Questions about who your child will live with after a divorce, or following the end of a relationship, fall into the category of parenting time in which parents exercise day-to-day caretaking functions for the child.
When you are dealing with a custody case, you might be wondering: can a child choose which parent to live with? In general, a child will not be able to make a decision about which parent she or he will live with, but in many circumstances, the child’s preference can affect how parenting time is determined. Our Illinois child custody lawyers can provide you with more information.
Parenting time can be allocated in one of two ways: by the parents through an agreed-upon parenting plan, or by the court through an allocation judgment. Either way, the allocation of parenting time must be based on what is in the child’s best interests. To determine what is in the child’s best interests, the IMDMA identifies a variety of relevant factors, including the wishes of the child, so long as that child is deemed mature enough to understand the implications of submitting their preference.
Accordingly, if the child is mature enough to express a reasoned preference for parenting time, the child’s preference can be taken into consideration in the allocation of parenting time, but it is unlikely to be the sole or single factor. As such, a child may be able to have input into which parent to live with, but is unlikely to be able to simply choose a parent to live with after a divorce.
There are many different reasons that parents want to know about how their child’s preference for parenting time will be considered. In some cases, the parents are engaged in a particularly contentious divorce, and they may be concerned that the other parent is trying to encourage or convince the child to sever ties with the other parent. In such circumstances, a parent might worry that the child will “pick” the other parent, and that his or her relationship with the child will ultimately be damaged.
In other circumstances, parents might simply want to have a better understanding of how their child’s preference plays a role in determining parenting time, and how the child’s preference might affect a parent’s decision to relocate or to take a new job.
Do you have questions or concerns about parenting time and your child’s preference? One of our Illinois child custody lawyers can help. Contact Demetrios N. Dalmares & Associates, Ltd. to learn more.
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