In this Learn About Law episode, we discuss the court recognized age at which a child can choose what parent they want to live with
In this article...

In this article, we will answer the question, “at what age can children decide where they want to live in Illinois?”

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 child’s age impacts this determination.  
In all states, a person under 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 it. However, child custody decisions are based on what is in the child’s best interest. Therefore, courts will consider the child or children’s preference when making their decisions, but the court has the final word in determining what is in the child’s best interest.


There is a common misconception that a certain age at which a child can decide where they want to live. There is not a certain age at which a child can make that decision because, as mentioned earlier, minor children cannot make legally binding decisions. With that being said, states consider the child’s age and maturity when the judge determines how much weight to give the child’s preference.
In many states, including Illinois, 14 years old is the age at which a child’s opinion starts to be weighted more heavily in the analysis of where they will live. The exact age can slide based on the particular child’s maturity level. For example, a very mature 11-year-old girl may prefer school or extracurricular activities depending on where each parent lives or a 15-year-old boy may state he wants to live in a house with more lenient rules. Regarding child custody, the most important thing to remember is that the court’s decision is based on what’s in the child's best interest (ren).
To go back to the initial question, “At what age can a child decide where they want to live?” there is no age at 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 child's maturity, will determine how much weight to give that preference. All legal decisions regarding child custody are determined by what’s deemed to be in the child's best interest.


Posted 
November 16, 2020
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