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Will a Judge Listen to My Child in an Illinois Custody Dispute?

 Posted on September 23, 2022 in Divorce

IL family lawyerWhether during a divorce, as part of a first-time parenting plan for unmarried parents, or a dispute arising after several years of co-parenting, child custody disputes can be cases of serious contention. Determining how parenting time and parental responsibilities are allocated is often hotly contested by both parents.

Complicating things is the fact that children often develop their own opinions about how things should be, especially as they get older and have a better understanding of the difference between each parent’s home environment and parenting strategy. If either you or your child believes your child deserves a fair say in your Illinois parenting plan negotiations, read on.

When Can a Child’s Wishes Be Considered?

While young children often have strong opinions about homework, hygiene, and personal discipline, they do not have the maturity or perspective to make wise decisions that are in their own best interests. Left to their own devices, children would often gravitate towards a parent who has a more relaxed disciplinary approach to parenting just because it is easier.

But as children grow older, they are able to develop more sophisticated preferences based on rational motives. The older a child is, the more seriously their preferences tend to be taken in custody disputes - especially once the child can demonstrate they are old enough to maturely reason on their own. This age is different for every child and a judge may want to spend some time privately interviewing the child to determine the child’s emotional maturity and the reasons for her preferences in the parenting arrangement.

Judges are very wary of parents who manipulate a child’s testimony to try to gain the upper hand in parenting negotiations. They have seen these tactics many times and are likely to suss them out by looking for signs a child is being coerced, such as rehearsed statements and inappropriate knowledge of parental conflict.

If there is a genuine question as to what would be in a child’s best interests, a judge may require a guardian ad litem or a custody evaluator to work with a child by investigating each parent’s home life, each parent’s personality, parenting style, and whether a child would be best served by a change in parental responsibilities or parenting time.

Schedule a Consultation with a DuPage County Child Custody Lawyer

Getting your child’s opinion heard in custody cases can be an important part of proving parental abuse or neglect. Even if abuse and neglect are not part of the equation and your child simply wants to have greater choice in where she spends her time, it is important to have help from a Naperville, IL child custody attorney who understands when and how children can be involved in custodial disputes. Call the offices of Calabrese Associates, P.C. today at 630-393-3111 to schedule an initial consultation and learn what options you have under Illinois family law.


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