In Illinois, the court will often take into account the wishes of the child or children who are the subject of a parenting time dispute. While a child's input can be incredibly valuable in terms of determining the child's best interest - as is the court's ultimate goal - it is not necessarily appropriate under all circumstances.
If you are involved in a parenting time dispute and worry about how your child's feelings and wishes will be respected, our compassionate family law attorneys in Wheaton can be by your side throughout the process.
Illinois Considers Child Input as One Factor in Parenting Time Disputes
Some states do not take children's wishes into account at all when deciding parenting time cases. This is perhaps a relic of the past in which decisions were typically made for kids without their input. Illinois, however, recognizes the importance of listening to what kids think, feel, and value as their family situation changes significantly.
Illinois courts operate under the belief that hearing from the child directly is one of the best methods for gaining understanding of how a parenting plan may affect that child, though the ultimate decision about hearing the child's perspective is left up to the judge's discretion. Courts are not required by law to take a child's wishes into account, or even to hear the child's preference at all.
How Do Courts Decide Whether to Allow the Child's Input?
In deciding whether to allow the child to testify, the court must consider the child's maturity and understanding of the process. For younger or less mature children, the judge may interview the child in his or her chambers, which may prove less intimidating to the child.
Your experienced family law attorney in DuPage County can be present in the judge's chambers in order to make sure your child understands the questions being asked and that his or her rights are protected.
More mature children may be called to testify in open court. There is no specific age that determines which process is necessary. Rather, the court simply considers relevant facts and background information that may give insight into whether the child is capable of making an informed choice.
Regardless of what the child's stated preferences are, however, the court still considers the whole picture. There are several factors the court will look at when deciding parenting time and your child's input is simply one.
Your Child's Input Can Actually Hurt Your Parenting Time Case
Courts are not obligated to adhere to a child's preferences in regards to parenting plans. In fact, it is possible that a child's input could even lead the judge to make a decision that differs from what the child requests, if the child appears to have been unfairly influenced by one parent in an effort to turn the child against the other parent.
Consult an Experienced Family Law Attorney in DuPage County
A dedicated DuPage County family law attorney can help you decide whether it is in your child's best interest to seek to give his or her input in your parenting time case. Parenting time cases are complex and emotionally-charged, but our skilled family law attorneys have experience working with children and their families during difficult times.