Child Custody: Does My Child’s Opinion Matter?
Disputes over child custody are fairly common, although some may be more contentious than others. In an ideal situation, you likely probably believe that you are completely committed to serving your child’s best interest. What often complicates matters is the fact that the other parent feels that he or she is also completely committed to serving your child’s best interest. The two of you just have different views on exactly what constitutes your child’s best interests and how to achieve it. In many cases, there may even be a third perspective, as your child may have an idea of the outcome that he or she would like to see. Will the court even consider your child’s opinion?
The answer to that question is dependent on a number of considerations. Strictly speaking, Illinois law says that, in a custody proceeding, among the factors that a court must consider in making a determination are “the wishes of the child as to his [or her] custodian.” Your child’s opinion, however, is just one of many concerns the court must balance in deciding on a custody order. Other factors include the wishes of each parent, the child’s adjustment to home, school and community environments, and the possible threat of violence or abuse. In addition to the considerations specifically listed in the statute, the court is required to consider “all relevant factors.” This means the court must carefully consider the child’s age, intelligence, and maturity level when deciding how much weight to give his or her opinion. Younger, less mature children are unlikely to grasp the gravity of the situation and may not fully comprehend the circumstances.
For example, a young child may express a desire to “live with daddy” because during the parents’ separation, her father treated each visit as a special occasion. She is not likely to understand that the man lives in a one bedroom apartment and works primarily second shift. An older child, on the other hand, is more likely to identify that he does not communicate well with his mother, and would therefore prefer to live with his father. While the court may not honor the child’s explicit wishes, the older child’s opinion would generally be taken more seriously.
If you are involved in a child custody matter, contact an experienced Geneva family law attorney today. At the Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick, we are committed to helping families develop long-term workable custody arrangements that meet the needs of both parents and children.