child custodyParents who are going through a divorce or a child custody case often have questions about how Illinois parental responsibility law handles a child’s preferences. In other words, can a child’s preference for custody play a role in determining the allocation of parental responsibilities? If so, you might also be wondering if there is a specific age at which a child can refuse child visitation in Illinois. Generally speaking, Illinois law does not set one specific age at which a child’s preference can play a role in determining custody or the allocation of parental responsibilities. Instead, the court may consider a child’s preference in certain circumstances and on a case-by-case basis. A child custody attorney in Chicago can provide you with additional information.


Illinois Law Does Not Set a Specific Age for Considering a Child’s Preference in Custody Decisions 

When it comes to the allocation of parental responsibilities, including both significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time, you should know that Illinois law does not set a specific age at which a court can or must consider a child’s preference. Instead, whether the court is allocating significant decision-making responsibilities or parenting time, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/602.5) clarifies that the child’s preference can be one factor in determining what kind of custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. More specifically, the law explains that the court may consider “the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to decision-making.”


What does this statutory language have to do with child visitation in Illinois? To be clear, Illinois no longer uses the terminology of “visitation.” Instead, the previously used terms of child custody and visitation have been replaced with the “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Where the courts used to award physical custody and visitation, courts now allocate parenting time, which is one type of parental responsibility. Accordingly, when the court allocates parenting time, it may take into account a child’s preference.


Child’s Preference May Not Result in a Complete Limitation of Parenting Time 

There is no specific age at which a court will consider a child’s preference with regard to parenting time, but instead, the court will look at the child’s maturity and ability to voice his or her preference without interference from the parents or other parties. Yet even if a court determines that a child’s independent preference for the allocation of parenting time should be considered in the allocation judgment, this factor alone may not result in a complete limitation of parenting time. In other words, even if the child’s preference is factored into the allocation of parenting time, the schedule might not allow the child to completely refuse parenting time with one of the parents.


In most situations, the court will only entirely restrict parenting time—thereby allowing a child to refuse all visitation—if it “finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent’s exercise of parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.” Unless parenting time is restricted for this type of reason, a child may not be able to refuse parenting time altogether.


Contact Our Chicago Child Custody Attorneys 

If you have questions about child custody or a child’s ability to express a preference in the allocation of parenting responsibilities, an experienced Chicago child custody lawyer can assist you. Contact Michael C. Craven to learn more.

The post At What Age Can a Child Refuse Visitation in Illinois? first appeared on Divorce Attorney in Chicago.