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Modification of Custody in Illinois

In Illinois, the judge's decision regarding child custody is presumed to be final, and the courts take this finality seriously. In most contested cases, a final custody order cannot be modified for a minimum of two years from the date it was entered. In other words, you can't keep on going back to court again and again until you get the result you were looking for. Child custody decisions are made in the best interests of the child, or at least that's how it is supposed to work, and stability is a priority.

That said, there are exceptions, and under the right circumstances you can successfully petition the court to modify a custody order. Our job is to help you find the right attorney if you are going down this road. When it comes to child custody, the “right” attorney, in our opinion, has years of experience and a track record of success in these cases. When you call us, we will recommend the Illinois child custody attorney we believe is best for your specific situation. We only recommend attorneys we know and trust.

If you are looking to modify a child custody order, you will have a high burden or proof. Because of the strong legal presumption in favor of an existing custody arrangement, you have to prove that:

  1. There has been a change in the child's circumstances; or
  2. There has been a change in the circumstances of the custodial parent or parents (if joint custody);
  3. AND, a change in custody is necessary to protect the best interests of the child.

When only one parents wants a change in custody, that parent will have to show that the facts have changed since the prior judgment was entered, and that the changes directly affect the child. And as always, the court is going to be looking at the best interests of the child. Changes that might warrant a change in custody include changes in health, a remarriage, or a breakdown in the relationship of the parents that affects the child (especially in cases of joint custody).

Not all cases are contested. If you and the other parent agree, and you put it in writing, you can file a joint motion to modify custody. You may not have to wait two years if you agree on the changes. However, be aware that changing child custody not only affects where the child lives, but it can affect who is making the day-to-day decisions about the child, who pays child support and the visitation schedule.

If you do not have a current court order for custody or visitation, consider getting into court to have a formal arrangement in place. A verbal agreement between the parents is not enforceable and you are relying the fact that your relationship with the other parent will always be amicable and that you will always agree on what's best for your child. A lot of people assume that one parent automatically gets custody of the child, but that is not the case.

If you need help finding an Illinois child custody attorney to help you file a petition to modify custody, or if you have general questions and would like to speak with an attorney, you can contact us at any time.