Can I modify my child custody agreement in Illinois?

There are a number of circumstances in which one or both parties involved in a custody arrangement could request a modification in Illinois.

There are several ways that a child custody arrangement can come about in Illinois. The parents of a child can develop their own agreement and then have it approved by a court. Or, the court can order custody based on the state's laws.

In either case, there could come a time when one or both parents wish to change the arrangement. There are several rules that dictate when and how this can happen.

The two-year rule

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage act clearly states that these parental responsibility plans may not be modified for two years following their entry in court. There are two exceptions to this rule: The first exception is if the courts determine that there is a factor present that could seriously endanger the wellbeing of the child, either physically, mentally or emotionally. This also applies to visitation plans that address grandparents, stepparents and siblings. The second exception is if the parents file a joint stipulation waiving the two-year moratorium.

Make modifications anytime

Whether inside or outside the two-year rule, parents are permitted to make changes to the agreement at any time if they both agree to the modification. The court will also have to approve of these changes to ensure that the child's interests are still served. The law specifies several other conditions that could lead to a change at any time, and those are the following:

  • If there is an environment that is seriously harmful to the child.
  • If a parent either lives with or marries a sex offender.
  • If the child's emotional development is seriously impaired due to current arrangements.

A parent will have to file a petition in order to make these changes.

Substantial changes

The Illinois Courts points out that the parties involved in these arrangements have a continuing duty to provide information that could affect a pending arrangement. A court may also take into account any substantial changes that have occurred since the agreement was entered and approved. In order to have a modification approved, it will likely be necessary to prove that the substantial change has affected the child's best interests.

Other circumstances

There are still other situations in which one or both parents may feel a change is needed. The law states that the court could modify an agreement to reflect the arrangement the parents have been using over the previous six months. For example, there may be a schedule in place, but the parents altered it slightly without officially changing the court documents. They may request that the court update the paperwork with the current arrangements.

Minor changes may also be approved with little to no hassle from the courts. For example, if one parent usually has a child on a Tuesday but needs to switch to Wednesdays, it could be viewed as a minor change.

Though Illinois law does give parents a number of options for changing custody orders, actually making modifications can turn into complex issues. People facing these matters should consult with a family law attorney.