Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in Illinois?

Updated on June 5, 2023
Updated: June 6, 2023

In Illinois, children have the right to express their thoughts about physical custody arrangements. However, they cannot choose which parent to live with in most cases. The judge decides what is best for the child, considering factors like a safe and stable home and a strong relationship with both parents. If you are a noncustodial parent in Illinois, it may be challenging to understand your rights regarding child custody.

Tommalieh Law is an experienced family law firm that can help you navigate the complexities of the Illinois court system. Call today and schedule your free consultation!

Overview of Child Custody in Illinois

After the divorce process, Illinois physical custody laws ensure both parents share decision-making and establish a parenting plan and schedule. Parents can submit a joint proposed plan, but if they disagree on the allocation of parenting time, mediation is required. A neutral third-party mediator helps them agree on sharing parental responsibilities and physical custody based on the child's best interests.

If visitation mediation fails, the judge makes a ruling on parental responsibilities and visitation rights. The physical custody arrangement reflects what's best for the child, whether determined by mutual agreement or a legal custody court ruling.

Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?

Courts have the final decision on which parent a child will reside with and who has legal custody. A child's wishes may be considered if they are deemed mature enough by a judge, but cannot determine legal physical custody residence. Through child custody laws courts aim to create arrangements that consider children's best interests and wishes, as long as they are rational and mature.


Different states have different laws regarding children's rights in custody disputes. Some require counseling, while others involve family law court hearings. Children may be present during the process and their opinion may weigh in, but ultimately the court decides on child custody issues.

In Illinois, a child cannot choose which parent to live with. The court makes decisions about custody and visitation provisions of noncustodial parents based on the best interests of the child. This means the child's desires do not necessarily dictate the decision.

If a dispute arises, legal advice from a child custody lawyer is crucial to protect everyone's rights and ensure the child's best interests are considered. An experienced family law attorney can help reach a mutually beneficial child custody decision.

Age of Majority

In Illinois, there is no official age for when a child can decide where they want to live. However, judges consider a child's independent preferences based on their age. At 14 years old, the courts start to consider a child's parental preference and give it more weight until they turn 18.

FAQ: How to win child custody after a divorce in Illinois?

There is a range of factors to take into consideration and age alone does not determine the importance of a child's desires. The minor's maturity level and specific situation are also significant factors. If a minor expressing parental preference is emotionally immature compared to a mature minor, judges would likely give greater weight to the latter's opinion, even if one parent allows more freedom than the other.

Court's Discretion

In Illinois, the court has discretion when deciding which parent will have sole custody. Ultimately, the court will determine what legal decision is in the best interest of the child. However, children are given a voice in the process and can express their opinion to the court. The court will then consider this when making its decision. The age and maturity of the child can also factor into the court's decision-making process.

Burden of Proof

According to the laws in Illinois, the decision of which parent a child will live with is not left up to the child. The court will make this determination based on what is in the best interests of the child and other factors. Generally, the court must consider a variety of relevant factors such as the relationship between each parent and child, any history of abuse or neglect by either parent, the mental and physical health of both parents, each parent's ability to financially support the child, and the wishes of the child.

If a parent wishes to contest this child custody ruling, they must provide evidence to the court that living with them is in the best interests of the child.

Confidential Consultation with Minor Child

When parents are considering a divorce, the court may require that one or both parties seek confidential consultation with a minor child. This process is an important opportunity for the court to receive input from the child about which parent they would prefer to live with.


The consultant's role is to provide the court with an evaluation of what the child wants and obtain information regarding the child's preferences without any influence from either parent. The consultant will then provide a report to the court that helps inform the judge's decision about custody. 

Factors Considered by the Court

In custody cases in Illinois, judges may take into account the preferences of the child. However, judges are trained in recognizing parental influence and may not honor a child's request if undue influence is suspected. Younger children's requests may be disregarded as they are more easily swayed. The judge must base their decision on the evidence presented in court and other factors such as parental performance and health.

Physical and Emotional Health of the Child

The health of a child is a significant factor in determining their custodial parent. The court favors the best interests of the child in legal custody decisions. The court considers physical and emotional health when deciding what is best for the child. Physical health is assessed by looking at medical care, overall health, and special needs. Emotional health considers each parent's ability to provide support and stability. The court may favor the parent who can better nurture the child's emotional needs and provide a stable home environment.

Extracurricular Activities and Education

In Illinois, the court weighs many factors when evaluating child custody disputes. One factor is extracurricular activities and education. Extracurricular activities, for example, Illinois Civics Hub, help children develop skills like self-discipline, teamwork, and leadership. It also keeps them connected with peers, which is good for their emotional development.

FAQ: How are visitation schedules determined in Illinois?

As part of the custody evaluation, the court considers which parent will foster participation in these activities and provide support. For education, the court considers which parent will ensure good education and access to resources like tutoring.

Current Parenting Arrangements

Illinois custody laws prioritize frequent and continuing contact with both parents for the best interest of the child. The court may take into account the child's preferences but ultimately determines which parent will have custody. In some cases, a capable child may be given the authority to make decisions about their custody arrangement.

Potential Outcomes When a Child Chooses a Parent to Live With

After a divorce choosing which parent to live with can be a difficult decision for a child. The court may decide to allow the child to choose or to determine the parent they will live with and the custody arrangements. Factors such as health, extracurricular activities, education, and parenting arrangements will all be considered by the court in making this decision. Ultimately, the outcome of the case will depend on the evidence presented to the court.

Allocation of Custody and Decision-Making Responsibilities

In Illinois, children cannot choose which parent to live with; the court decides what is best for them. Both parents must agree on an arrangement or the court will decide based on the evidence presented. Factors like stability and emotional support are considered, as well as decision-making responsibilities for health, education, and welfare.


The court may also consider which parent will allow the child to have meaningful relationships with both parents. Ultimately, the court decides what is best for the child.

Call an Experienced Family Lawyer Today!

Before making any decisions about your child's living arrangement in Illinois, it's important to get legal advice from Tommalieh Law. firm In Illinois, the child doesn't get to choose which parent to live with. Instead, both parents must make decisions based on the child's best interests. This means that custody agreements and visitation arrangements must be agreed upon by both parents. If they can't agree, the court will decide.

Tommalieh Law's family lawyers can help you understand your options and your legal standing when it comes to custody and visitation decisions in Illinois.

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