What Circumstances Have the Best Chance of Resulting in a Change in Custody?

One of the most frequently litigated issues in an Illinois family law case is “custody.” (Since January 1, 2016, the term “custody” has fallen out of use and been replaced by “parenting time.”) It is not uncommon for parents to litigate the issue of parenting time over and over – sometimes several different times in the same year. However, it can seem like an uphill battle to get a court to change previously-entered parenting time orders. Is there a way parents who do not have primary residential placement of the child can obtain this?

“Best Interest” Standard and Parenting Time

Before discussing those situations most likely to result in a change in the parenting plan, it is helpful to remember that a court enters orders affecting the placement and care of the child based on what it believes to be in the child’s best interests. A court can consider a number of factors in making this decision, and a court does not necessarily need to agree with a psychologist, therapist, or other family members (or any of the parties) in making its decision. This standard is applicable when a court first creates a parenting plan and when a court is asked to modify that plan.

Situations Most Likely to Result in a Change of the Parenting Plan

With this understanding, it should be noted that most courts believe that stability and familiarity are usually in the child’s best interest. Thus, in order to obtain a change in the parenting plan, the court must be convinced that there are serious and compelling reasons to upset the child’s routine. Some of these situations include:

  • Emotional, sexual, and/or physical abuse:The court will step in and change a parenting plan if there is evidence that one parent is abusing the child in some fashion. A court does not take allegations of abuse lightly – the accusing parent must come prepared with evidence to substantiate these allegations. However, a court will not hesitate to change the parenting plan if it believes there is sufficient evidence showing the child’s welfare is in danger. Note, though, that a court will not necessarily change the parenting plan if it feels the other parent is disciplining the child in a way the other parent dislikes.
  • Neglect:A parent who is allowing a child to go without food, water, shelter, care, support, and the other necessities of life will modify the parenting plan to protect the child’s wellbeing.
  • Drug use or abuse that affects the child:Courts recognize that some parents use drugs and/or illegal substances. This does not necessarily mean a court will change a parenting plan unless the court is presented with evidence that such use or abuse is negatively impacting the child. A mother who is too drunk or high to ensure her children are fed and bathed can find her parenting time severely limited.

For assistance in modifying parenting plans in Illinois, contact the experienced Cook County family law attorneys at Arami Law. You can reach them by calling (312) 584-6355 or by contacting the firm online.

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