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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we explain how to change custody and parenting time in Illinois.  We answer the questions: when can you request a change in parenting time in Illinois?, and what happens in a change of custody proceeding in Illinois? 

Many people still use the term “child custody,” but Illinois courts no longer use this term.  Instead Illinois courts refer to “parenting time and responsibility.”  For the purposes of simplicity, this article will use the terms “custody” and “parenting time” interchangeably. 

For a general overview of the law regarding parenting time and responsibility in Illinois, check out: Illinois Parenting Laws Explained

When Can you Request a Change in Parenting Time in Illinois?

Illinois courts disfavor the modification of parenting orders, as they prefer to provide stability to the child.  The standard for whether a court will grant a request for a change in custody depends on whether more than two years have passed since the last parenting order was entered.  

If more than two years have passed since the last parenting order was entered, the party seeking modification must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances with respect to the child or either parent, and that modification of the parenting order is in the best interests of the child.  Courts will not inquire into the best interests of the child unless the moving party can show that there has actually been a substantial change in circumstances since the last order was entered. 

If less than two years have passed since the last parenting order was entered, it is more difficult to change custody. In this situation, the moving party is required to show that the current parenting situation may seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, emotional, or moral health.  

How to Request a Change of Custody in Illinois

In order to request a modification of your parenting order, you must file a motion to modify parenting time in the county in which the last custody order was entered.  Along with the motion to modify parenting time, you must file: 

  • A notice of motion that will notify the other party of the time and location of the initial court date; and 
  • An affidavit in which you swear to the facts that form the basis of your request for a modification.  

You must properly serve the notice of motion upon the other party along with a file-stamped copy of the motion and affidavit.  

What Happens in a Change of Custody Proceeding in Illinois?

Once the change of custody proceeding has been initiated by the movant filing a motion to modify parenting time, the following steps will generally occur:

  • Mediation:  The parties will be required to attempt to settle the issue through mediation with the assistance of a neutral third-party professional mediator. 
  • Appointment of a Guardian-Ad-Litem: A guardian-ad-litem is a family law attorney appointed by the court to investigate the best interests of the child and report back to the court with a recommendation as to the child’s best interests.  The guardian-ad-litem will interview the parents and the child if he or she is old enough.
  • Psychological Evaluations: The court will often order that the parents and children undergo psychological evaluations in order to determine the best interests of the child.
  • Discovery: The parties may have the opportunity to engage in written discovery and depositions in order to gather evidence for trial. 
  • Pretrial Settlement Conference: At a pretrial settlement  conference the judge will meet with each party in an attempt to encourage settlement without the need for a trial. 
  • Trial: If attempts at settlement fail, a hearing will be held during which both parties will be able to present evidence and call witnesses to support their arguments.  At the conclusion of the trial or shortly thereafter, the judge will issue an order either modifying the existing parenting arrangement or denying the motion for modification. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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