When you’re a parent, one of the worst aspects of divorce is that you will likely no longer have your child living with you 100% of the time. Parents often fight hard for the right to control in which household a child spends the majority of their time. They may also be surprised to learn that a minor child can sometimes make that decision for themselves.
In Illinois, the law allows children 14 years of age and older to choose which parent they want to have primary custody. Unless the judge has a compelling reason not to allow it, the child’s preference may hold sway.
So what could make a judge decide not to allow a child’s request regarding custody? Every decision the judge makes in a custody case has to center around the “best interests of the child.” As any parent knows, sometimes children (especially teens) don’t make decisions that are in their best interest. Instead they may:
- Seek to punish one parent for their perceived role in the divorce by asking to live with the other parent
- Want to live with the parent that is overly permissive because they don’t want any oversight in their lives or any strict boundaries
- Feel like they “need” to stay with a parent who is emotionally or medically unstable to take care of that parent
- Be unfairly alienated from one parent due to emotional and psychological manipulation by the other
If your teen is articulate, thoughtful and able to express their opinion on the matter, be aware that the judge may ask what they think. But understand that the judge may also decide that other factors like the child’s stability, the parent’s lifestyle and any educational concerns are much more important.
If you’re gearing up for a custody battle, find out more about your legal options.