Parenting Time Considerations and Your Child's Preferences
Divorce proceedings can be a difficult and painful experience for all involved, including the children. This is doubly true if they are old enough to understand what is going on. It is only natural that they may develop opinions on some of the issues pending in your divorce. However, in some instances, their opinions will actually carry weight with the judge. Nowhere is this more common than with issues involving parenting time.
How Much Weight to Give?
When parenting time arrangements are left to be determined by a family court judge, he or she must take into account a number of several factors. A child’s preference may be one of them, though it will not necessarily receive more consideration than other elements, including:
- The child’s relationship with each parent, their siblings and friends in their current situation;
- The child’s home life or lack thereof;
- The mental health of the parents, the child and any siblings;
- Any history of domestic violence perpetrated by or against any of the parties involved; and
- Any other factor in the parents’ lives that might lead a judge to fear for a child’s well-being or safety.
Something else to consider is that under last year’s modifications to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), what was formerly referred to as “custody” and dealt exclusively with physical and legal possession of the child is now referred to as “parental responsibilities” and includes the issue of decision-making authority for each parent. If the judge does not believe that a parent will be able to make important decisions for their child, that parent will likely receive fewer parental rights.
Reasons to Override the Child’s Preference
Overall, the best interests of the child are the paramount concern in a judge’s custody determination. While judges obviously try to not place a child in a situation they detest, they also must consider whether there are factors a child is either unaware of or is disregarding. One of the primary examples is undue parental influence. It is very possible for a parent to influence a child either directly or subtly, by threats or by actions such as guilt-tripping and speaking negatively about the other parent. Hostility from one parent to the other could also be a factor; a child may see that hostility and turn away from it.
Even if a parent has not influenced a child’s preference, the child’s wishes may be disregarded if they are clearly not in his or her own best interests. For example, if a child wants one parent to gain parenting time because they are markedly more permissive, a judge will likely not consider that a substantive reason to award parenting time in such a manner. If one parent has no fixed address and the other does, the judge will likely favor granting stability to the child.
An Attorney Can Assist You
If you are dealing with issues related to child custody, parenting time, or any other family-related legal matter, an experienced Kane County family law attorney can provide valuable assistance. Call 630-232-9700 for a confidential consultation at The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates today.