When you and your spouse decided to divorce, you naturally assumed that you’d have primary physical custody of the children, and your spouse agreed. After all, you’ve always been the children’s primary caretaker.
However, your teenager has suddenly announced that they want to live with their other parent after the divorce. Do they actually have any say in the matter? Maybe. Here’s what you should know.
Illinois law does give some teenagers a choice about custody
Under this state’s laws, any teen 14 years of age or older can choose which parent they prefer to live with — but that’s not an absolute right.
The court’s overwhelming rule when it comes to custody is that the best interests of the child must be protected at all times. What your teen wants and what’s actually in their best interests may not be the same thing.
If you and your spouse are fighting over custody and your teen makes a rational argument for living with their other parent to the judge, the court may give their words significant weight. If you and your spouse are united in the idea that your teen is better off living with you, maybe because your spouse has an erratic work schedule that requires lots of time away from home, the judge is unlikely to empower your teen’s choice.
Just the same, a teenager with strong opinions can create cracks in parental unity — especially when those parents are divorcing. Your spouse may change their mind about the agreed-upon custody situation, and you should be prepared for that to happen.
Working with an experienced attorney can minimize your problems
When you suspect that your custody situation may get complicated, it’s seldom wise to handle the issue on your own. An attorney can help you better understand the dynamics of the law as it applies to your case and plan your next steps.