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Does my child have a say in custody arrangements?

Divorcing when you have a child is undoubtedly different. Even when the split is in everyone's best interests, it can be upsetting for parents to divide time with their child. As such, determining custody and parenting time can be an emotional process.

This can be especially true if a child has a strong opinion on the parent with whom he or she wants to live. But do kids have a say in custody? Does what they want take precedent over everything else?

The short answers to these questions are yes, children can have a say in custody, but no, their opinion won't necessarily trump everything else.

How much weight does a child's opinion hold?

According to Illinois custody laws, children who are at least 14 years old can choose where they want to live when parents divorce. However, the courts have final say. If the child's decision is not in his or her best interests, a judge can overrule the child's decision. 

If a child is not 14, his or her opinion may still matter greatly to parents. In these situations, parents can work together to create a parenting plan that reflects their child's wishes. While the courts will ultimately need to approve the plan, reaching an agreement outside of court can allow parents to have more control over the custody arrangement.

Other factors to consider

While a child's opinion can play a major role in determining custody, it is not the only factor to consider. Parties must also think about:

  • The child's needs
  • Each parent's mental and physical health
  • Parents' wishes
  • A child's daily needs and schedule
  • Histories of violence or abuse
  • Parents' willingness to cooperate with each other and make decision in the child's best interests

These factors also impact custody determinations, both physical and legal, because they affect a child's mental, physical and emotional well-being.  

Whether you agree with your child's opinion or not, it can affect the allocation of parental responsibilities so it is important that you not minimize or ignore that factor. Instead, you should focus on creating a plan that is agreeable to both parents and in the best interests of your child. 

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