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Guide to Modification of Custody Arrangements in Illinois

Understanding Modification of Custody in Illinois

Life is unpredictable, and unexpected changes happen all the time. For a child, a major change, such as a divorce, can be a stressful and emotional experience, especially if there are disagreements among their parents. The most significant disagreement during a divorce is usually over who the child should live with and/or how decisions are made. Changing custodial arrangements, particularly orders as to how major decisions are made, once the judge has issued a child custody decree is difficult but possible. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can file a modification of custody petition to modify the current orders on decision-making if something were to come up that necessitates a change.

Grounds for Modification of Child Custody

In Illinois, parents must wait at least two years before modifying child custody arrangements pertaining to decision-making responsibilities. These responsibilities include “joint” or “sole” decision-making authority for medical, educational, religious, and extracurricular activities decisions. It’s important parents understand the criteria needed for a modification and provide, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a significant change in circumstances has occurred. Additionally, it’s important to note that the two-year requirement does not apply when a parent seeks to modify the parenting time (f/k/a visitation) schedule only.

Examples of significant changes can be:

  • Allegations of neglect or abuse
  • A substantial breakdown in the co-parenting relationship, such that parents can no longer make decisions jointly
  • Parental relocation
  • If the parent or child develops health issues that affect how decision-making is handled

If you need to file a child custody modification petition within two years, you must show evidence that the current arrangement is dangerous to your child. The court makes it substantially more challenging for parents to modify joint or sole decision-making authority within the first two years, but it is possible.

Some exceptions include:

  • If there is serious endangerment to the child’s mental or physical health
  • If the custodial parent starts living with or marries a sex offender
  • If the child has been sexually, physically, or emotionally abused

Process for Modifying Child Custody Agreement in Illinois

If the modifications are in the child’s best interest, and both parents agree, the judge can modify custody arrangements without going to court. If one parent objects, they must follow the modification process steps.

The steps include:

  1. Wait two years (unless exceptional circumstances or if it’s a parenting time only change)
  2. File a petition through your family lawyer
  3. Both parents must attend mediation with their attorneys to try to resolve the issue
  4. If you’re unable to come to a resolution in mediation, your case will go to court, and the judge will decide based on the evidence presented
  5. Often, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is appointed

Factors Considered by the Court in Custody Modification Cases

If your custody modification case goes to court, you should always seek expert help from a family law attorney. The court will always prioritize the child’s best interests, but they’ll also consider the evidence presented by both parties and each parent’s fitness to make decisions, as well as the living environment.

Modification of Custody with a Qualified Family Attorney

Modifying your child custody arrangement is no easy task, but with the right help, you can easily navigate through the legal process. When something goes wrong, and changes need to be made, Strieker Law Firm has you covered. With years of experience handling complex child custody cases, we will help you seamlessly navigate your modification case. If you need assistance gathering evidence, have questions about the modification steps, or don’t know where to start, contact us today!

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