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How can a child custody action be initiated in Illinois?

There are various circumstances that can affect the need to determine custody issues for a child in Illinois. While divorce is the most common situation, there are other events that may prompt a need for someone other than a parent to file for custody. The courts in Illinois are concerned with the best interests of a child being represented, and in some cases, a representative may be appointed on behalf of a child to ensure that best interests are not ignored.

A child custody proceeding may commence when a parent files for the dissolution of marriage or for a legal separation. This may also occur if a parent seeks to have a marriage invalidated. In some cases, an individual other than a parent may file a petition for custody if a parent does not currently have physical custody of the child in question.

A stepparent may file a petition if a child is at least 12 years of age. However, there are some limitations, including the fact that the child must desire to live with the stepparent. The stepparent must have been married to the custodial parent for a minimum of five years while the child resided with the couple. Additionally, the custodial parent in this case must either be unable to perform parental duties or must be deceased. Similarly, a grandparent may initiate child custody action if the custodial parent has died. This is contingent on the location and circumstances related to the non-custodial parent.

A grandparent concerned about the care of a grandchild after the death of a custodial parent might consider seeking custody of that child to ensure safe accommodations and consistent care. It may be important to present facts supporting that such a move would result in the best interests of the child being protected.

Source: Illinois General Assembly, "PART VI CUSTODY", October 09, 2014

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