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When can a teen choose which parent to live with?

A previous post on this blog talked about how parents in Rockford can manage to co-parent their older children, particularly their teenagers. Even when parents are getting along, allocating parental responsibilities in these situations can be particularly tricky for several reasons. For one, teenagers, more so than younger children, often have a life of their own, including activities, jobs and social occasions they prefer not to miss. Moreover, a teen may have a strong opinion about how much time he or she wants with each parent.

Currently, Illinois law does not include a specific age at which older children can have a say in how much parenting time each of their parents get. In theory, the court will always consider the wishes of the child when allocating parental responsibilities. This is part of the court's overall evaluation of the child's best interests.

However, the court is allowed to examine the child's level of maturity when deciding a case. Likewise, the court can, and should, expect the teen to be able to articulate his or her views clearly and independently and give good reasons for those views.

Moreover, it is important to remember that the child's wishes are one piece of the whole puzzle when it comes to deciding what parental arrangement is in the child's best interests. A parent should consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney about the bigger picture and how their teen's wishes play in to it.

The reality is that, until a child is a legal adult, the court makes child custody decisions unless of course the parents are able to put together an acceptable agreement. Thus, it is important that parents going through custody issues learn how to best address these matters, as this can help protect their rights and the best interests of the child.

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