When can a child decide where to live in Illinois?

At What Age Can Children Decide Where They Want to Live in Illinois?

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
September 20, 2019

In this article, we will answer the question, “at what age can children decide where they want to live in Illinois?” We will explain how Illinois courts factor in the wishes of the children in determining child custody issues and how the age of the child impacts this determination.    

In all states, a person under the age of 18 years old is considered a minor and is, in almost all cases, unable to make legally binding decisions. Child custody is considered a legally binding decision, as it is a court order based on a judge’s decision, and minors can therefore not make this decision. Child custody decisions, however, are based on what is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, courts will take the preference of the child or children into consideration when making their decisions, but the court has the final word in determining what is in the child’s best interest.

Can a Child Pick the parent they want to live with in Illinois?

There is a common misconception that there is a certain age in which a child can decide where he or she wants to live. There is not a certain age in which a child can make that decision, because, as mentioned earlier, minor children cannot make legally binding decisions. With that being said, states do consider the age and maturity of the child when the judge is determining how much weight to give the child’s preference.

In many states, including Illinois, 14 years old  the age at which a child’s opinion starts to be weighted more heavily in the analysis of where he or she will live. The exact age can slide based on the level of maturity of the particular child. For example, a very mature 11-year-old girl may have a preference based on school or extracurricular activities depending on where each parent lives, or a 15-year-old boy may state he wants to live in the house with more lenient rules. In terms of child custody, the most important thing to remember is that the court’s decision is based on what’s in the best interest of the child(ren).

To go back to the initial question, “At what age can a child decide where they want to live?”, there is no age in which a child can decide where they want to live because they are a minor. Courts do consider the child’s preference in the matter and, depending on the maturity of the child, will determine how much weight to give that preference. All legal decisions regarding child custody are determined on what’s deemed to be in the best interest of the child.

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