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illinois custody modification

Do you have a current custody arrangement that isn’t working? Do you want to know whether it’s possible to modify it? When the judge issues a custody order, it’s final.

However, courts understand that one or both parents’ circumstances can change over time, making it necessary to alter the original custody order terms. In limited scenarios, you can apply for an Illinois custody modification.

Judges are typically careful to avoid unnecessarily disrupting your children’s routines. But the court’s top priority is to ensure that the current arrangement reflects what’s best for your children. In some situations, that means modifying the original order.

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Decision-Making Responsibilities and Parenting Time

It’s important to point out that while we use the term custody in this article, Illinois law talks about parental decision-making responsibility and parenting time. Parenting time is just what it sounds like—the time each parent gets to spend with the child. Decision-making responsibilities refer to choosing your child’s religion, school, health care alternatives, after-school activities, and more.

RELATED: How to Prepare an Effective Illinois Parenting Plan

The Two-Year Modification Rule

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act says you cannot seek a modification order for two years after a final order is issued. Should you want to apply before the two-year time limit, you must provide evidence that the current situation presents a danger to your child physically, emotionally, or psychologically. Potential examples include:

  • Your child is at risk because the custodial parent is a convicted sex offender;
  • Your child was sexually abused;
  • The custodial parent is incarcerated and can no longer care for the child;
  • The child is developing social problems because of their custodial parent; and
  • The child’s grades at school are declining due to their living situation.

The court considers modifications based on provisions outlined in the Act.

RELATED: Filing for Emergency and Temporary Custody Orders in Illinois

How to Prove a Change in Circumstances

There are many reasons a judge will change a custody order. At the two-year mark, a court will consider modifying the order, but the change must be in the best interest of your children.

When only one parent is applying for a modification of parenting time in Illinois, you must provide proof that a significant change has happened since the judge issued the last order. You must also show how the custody change is necessary to protect your child’s interests. 

Examples of conditions that could warrant an Illinois custody modification include:

  • There’s a change in your child’s health, such as developing a severe illness that requires substantial doctors’ appointments into the foreseeable future;
  • One parent needs to move to a different state for work;
  • One parent lost their job or developed unforeseen expenses;
  • One parent has an injury or illness that prevents their ability to work or earn income;
  • One parent is getting remarried; or
  • There’s a breakdown in the parental relationship.

If you are requesting the modification, you have the burden to prove that a significant change has happened—and you must prove this by a preponderance of the evidence. If you cannot make this showing, the court is not likely to grant the modification.

How the Custody Modification Process Works

If both parents agree to the custodial change, the court will likely modify the custody order. The process is a little more complicated if one parent objects to the change. Steps include:

  • Waiting two years to file a complaint if there are no exceptional circumstances;
  • Have your custody attorney file a petition in the court where the original custody decree was issued; and
  • Mediate the matter by appearing in front of a trained mediator with the other parent and attempting to reach a compromise.

If you cannot reach an agreement, your case will proceed to court, where the judge will issue a decision based on the evidence presented.

Discuss Your Modification Goals with a Qualified Attorney

Pursuing a custody order modification without legal representation is not wise. Understandably, you might be concerned about incurring significant legal fees. But we can help with that.

We are not a law firm. We work off a subscription method where you sign up and get professional legal services for a monthly fee. Start by submitting your inquiry and meeting with a lawyer for a one-on-one, no obligation, initial consultation. If you elect to sign up for Vantage Group Legal Services, we’ll match you with a skilled network attorney who will handle all aspects of your case for the duration of your subscription.

Contact us today to learn more about how Vantage Group Legal Services can help you get an Illinois custody modification.