To modify a child custody order, absent parental agreement, you typically need to demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances that justifies the modification, and that the modification is in the best interests of the child. The following are some key standards and considerations for modifying child custody orders in Illinois:

1. Substantial Change in Circumstances: You must show a significant change in circumstances that has occurred since the entry of the existing custody order. This change should not have been anticipated at the time of the original order and must affect the child’s well-being.

2. Best Interests of the Child: The court always prioritizes the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. When seeking a modification, you must show that the proposed change will better serve the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.

3. Child’s Preference: If the child is mature enough to express a reasonable preference, the court may consider their wishes. However, the child’s preference alone is not determinative and will be evaluated along with other relevant factors.

4. Parental Cooperation: The court may consider the level of cooperation or conflict between the parents and whether they are willing and able to facilitate a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent.

5. Safety and Well-being: If there are concerns about the child’s safety or well-being in the current custody arrangement, such as domestic violence or substance abuse issues, the court will be more inclined to modify the custody order.

6. Stability and Continuity: The court generally values stability and continuity in a child’s life. Therefore, you must present a compelling argument that the proposed modification will provide a more stable and beneficial environment for the child.

It can be more challenging to modify a child custody order within the first two years after it is issued, as there is a higher standard applied within this time period, and you will have to 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.

Modifying a custody order can be a complex process, and it’s advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney. They can assess your specific situation, guide you through the legal process, and help you present a strong case for modification based on the applicable standards and considerations.

Stephanie G. Sadow, Of Counsel
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