Can Children Have a Say in the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?
Many spouses who make the decision to get divorced have minor children from the marriage. When there are minor children from the marriage, parental responsibilities will need to be allocated. There are essentially two different ways of allocating parental responsibilities under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA): either through a parenting plan developed by the parents or through the court’s allocation judgment. In both scenarios, the wishes of the child, or the child’s preference, can be taken into account but typically will not be the sole deciding factor in how parental responsibilities are allocated. Keep in mind that parental responsibilities include both significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. We will say more about how a child’s preference can come into play for both types of parental responsibilities.
Allocating Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities and Considering the Child’s Preference
Under the IMDMA, significant decision-making responsibilities are one of two forms of parental responsibilities, previously known in Illinois as child custody. Significant decision-making responsibilities are most similar to what we previously knew as legal custody or the parent’s responsibility for making significant decisions about the child’s upbringing. Generally speaking, significant decision-making responsibilities typically include decisions about the child’s education (including where the child goes to school and who tutors the child), health care issues (including the types of medical, dental, and psychological treatments a child receives, as well as the providers the child sees), and religion (including what the child’s religious upbringing is and where the child receives religious training, education, and community).
Does the child get to have a say in how significant decision-making responsibilities are allocated? The answer to that question depends upon the specific facts of the case, but the IMDMA does allow the child’s wishes to be one consideration. Under the IMDMA, significant decision-making responsibilities are allocated according to what is in the best interests of the child. Whether the parents allocate these responsibilities in a parenting plan or the court does so in an allocation judgment, the “child’s best interests” must be what governs the allocation. In considering the child’s best interests, the IMDMA says that “all relevant factors” should be considered, including:
“The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to decision-making.”
The IMDMA lists 14 additional factors that can be considered, making clear that the court also can take into account any other factors not listed in the statute that it considers relevant.
Child’s Preference in Allocating Parenting Time
Similar to the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities, the IMDMA expressly states that the allocation of parenting time must be based on the child’s best interests. Again, the IMDMA lists numerous factors to be considered, including “the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time.”
For both significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time, what does it mean to consider “the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences”? There is no set rule concerning the age of the child for his or her preferences to be taken into account, but generally speaking, the child must be old enough to exhibit signs of maturity and the ability to understand why she or he is expressing a particular preference. Taking into account the child’s wishes occurs on a case-by-case basis and may not apply in all situations involving the allocation of parental responsibilities.
Contact a Child Custody Lawyer in Oakbrook Terrace
If you have questions about child custody or the allocation of parental responsibilities, a skilled DuPage County child custody attorney can assist you. Contact Farooqi & Husain Law Office today to learn more about the services we provide to the Muslim community. We can be reached online or by phone at 630-909-9114.