Your Child’s Wishes Regarding Parenting Arrangements
While parents all want to do what is best for their children, including allowing their voices to be heard, sometimes their wishes are not what is in their best interest. Depending on the circumstances, this may also prove to be the case in divorce and parental responsibility proceedings. In many instances, a judge will consider a child’s wishes regarding which parent they live with, but a child’s wishes are not the deciding factor.
What Does the Law Say?
Illinois law holds that a child’s wishes regarding residential living arrangements can be taken into account as long as the child’s “maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preference” is appropriately considered. In other words, the wishes of a child who is better able to express themselves in a manner consistent with them forming an independent opinion will be given more weight than that of a child who simply parrots their parent or older sibling. Generally, this means that older children’s opinions will have more impact, but this is not always the case. An extremely articulate younger child might very well have a firm grasp on the situation and could, therefore, be taken more seriously.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that no matter how persuasive the child, a judge has a statutory duty to rule in the child’s best interests, which will not always coincide with their preference. The law lists numerous factors that must be considered, of which the child’s preference is only one.
Asking Your Child
An important thing to consider is that if you or your attorney believe that your child’s preferences may sway the judge to one side or the other, the method by which that statement is entered into the record must be chosen carefully. Most of the time, the statement must come from your child, or it may fall under the category of hearsay, which is inadmissible.
This does not, however, mean that your child must be forced to testify in open court about which parent they would rather live with most of the time. The most common method of getting a child’s wishes and desires into evidence is through the use of a guardian ad litem (GAL). This way, a child is not subjected to a courtroom full of people or to a potentially hostile situation with the other parent and/or their attorney.
Consult a Parenting Time Attorney
Sometimes, it is possible to make the decision that is both what the child wants and in their best interests, but a child’s well-being must come first. Either way, if you have questions or need assistance at your proceedings on parenting time, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney for guidance. Call MKFM Law at 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation today.