Life brings changes. Sometimes those changes are completely unexpected. When it comes to child custody matters, you want to make sure that any unexpected life changes do not cause any issues with your children after a divorce. That is why the family courts in Illinois, as with other states, allow for the modification of child custody orders after a divorce has been finalized.
In this article, we will discuss the important issues involving the modification of a child custody order in Illinois. If, after reading this article, you have more questions about modifying a child custody order in your own case, we welcome you to contact us at Peskind Law Firm. You can call 630-444-0701 or fill our online contact form. Our child custody attorneys understand the challenges surrounding child custody obligations, and we can help you reach the best outcome for your changed circumstances.
Proving a Change in Circumstances
Generally, an Illinois court shall modify a parenting plan or allocation judgment when it is necessary to serve the child’s best interests after the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that based on facts that have arisen since the entry of the existing parenting plan or allocation judgment or were not anticipated therein, a substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or either parent, warranting a modification to serve the child’s best interest.
Some examples of change in circumstances that may warrant a modification of the parenting plan include, but are not limited to:
- If you believe your child is mentally and/or physically being put at risk in their current living situation.
- If your child is at risk or has already shown signs of developing psychological issues that can be directly associated to their current living situation.
- Your child has social issues that are directly related to the child’s current custodial parent.
- Evidence that clearly shows sexual and/or physical abuse of your child.
- Proof that your child’s custodial parent is currently living with a convicted sex offender.
- A substantial decline in your child’s school performance, including grades and extra-curricular activities.
- If the custodial parent is in prison.
Situations When a Court May Find that Modification is Unnecessary
While the circumstances above clearly indicate that a child’s situation must change, many other circumstances may seem important to you. Still, they may not persuade a judge to make a child custody modification. Here are a few examples of situations that may not result in a child custody order modification:
A failure to comply with the already agreed-upon parenting schedule is not typically grounds for modification. Suppose your spouse is not allowing you to have parenting time during your scheduled days. In that case, the Illinois court may take steps to enforce the original order rather than make any modifications.
Similarly, a change to your ex-spouse’s circumstances that do not impact your children will typically also not be a reason to modify the child custody order. When it comes to child custody decisions, the court is focused on the circumstances of the children much more than the circumstances of the parents when those changed circumstances do not affect the children.
The Two-Year Window on Child Custody Modifications
It is important to note that there is a higher standard to modify a child custody order if you ask for a change within the first two years after the order has been implemented. Once a child custody order has been in place for two years or more, then Illinois courts will employ a different standard. Thus, it can be more challenging to modify a child custody order within the first two years after it is issued.
Thus, to modify a child custody order within two years of a court’s child custody order, you must file an affidavit stating that the child’s current situation puts your child’s emotional, physical, mental, or moral health in danger in some way. In essence, Illinois courts will only modify if your children face “serious endangerment.”
By contrast, if more than two years have elapsed since the court’s last child custody order, the court will use a two-part test to determine if modifying the current parenting order is necessary.
- The court will determine whether there has been a substantial change of circumstances that directly affect your children since the last final child custody order was entered; and
- The court will evaluate whether the child custody order is in the best interest of your children.
As you can see, everything that drives the court’s decision in child custody matters – as with other divorce matters – is the “best interest of the child” standard. Therefore, a court will most likely entertain a request for modification if your children’s best interests are at stake.
Let the Professionals at Peskind Law Firm Help You With Your Child Custody Issues
Peskind Law Firm is a family and divorce law firm based out of St. Charles, Illinois. We also serve cities throughout the Chicagoland area, including Wheaton, Geneva, Batavia, Elgin, Aurora, Naperville, Lombard, Hinsdale, and surrounding areas.
By employing a team approach and by utilizing well-established internal procedures, Peskind Law Firm is well-positioned to help you address the multitude of issues that arise in family law cases. Call us today so that we can help you through this most challenging time.