1. Get the current parental responsibilities order
If you want to change your parental responsibilities, the first thing you should do is look at your current parental responsibilities (custody) order. If you do not have one, you will need to get one. Note that the term "custody" is no longer used in the law. The new term is parental responsibilities.
The existing parental responsibilities order is important because it tells you and the judge:
2. Fill out your parental responsibility modification forms
The next step is to prepare the court forms. You will need to file your forms using the same case number of the case where parental responsibilities were decided. You will find this number at the top of the first page of the court order.
Fill out and sign the forms listed below and make two (2) copies of each form:
- Motion to Modify Parental Responsibilities: This is critical and needs to be filled out carefully. Be sure to include as many details as possible. If you forget to ask for something in your motion, the court cannot give it to you. Remember to attach a copy of the Parental Responsibilities Order you are trying to change to your motion. If the parental responsibilities order is part of another order such as a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage or Parentage order, also attach a copy of that order to ensure it is complete.
- Notice of Motion
- Affidavit (Use only if it has been less than two years since the order was signed. This must state why you want the parental responsibilities changed so soon.)
- Child support forms: If child support is changing, you also need to complete additional forms. Child support will change if the parent receiving support is changing from one parent to the other. For more information see Changing child support.
3. File your forms with the court
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Some counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If you can paper file or have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations.
When you file your forms with the clerk they become part of the case. The clerk will stamp your forms. This stamp is important because it's proof that you filed the form with the court.
- E-filing: The documents you want to file with the court have to be uploaded into the system. You will need to create an account. See E-filing Basics for details.
- Paper filing: If you are paper filing bring the forms to the clerk at the courthouse in the county where you are filing. Bring all your copies and the originals with you when you file. Ask the clerk to stamp all your forms. They will keep the original. Keep at least one copy for your records. See courthouse locations.
There is a fee to file most forms. The cost depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.
4. Tell the other party about your petition and the upcoming court date
After electronically filing or paper filing, you must send the other party a notice telling them about the Motion and when to come to court.
You will need to:
- Send a file-stamped copy of the Motion to Modify Parental Responsibilities and the Affidavit to the other parent;
- Complete and file a Certificate of Mailing with the clerk, noting the date and the address to which you mailed the court papers; and
- Send a file-stamped copy of the Certificate of Mailing to the other party
You must do this even if you and the other parent agreed to the change and filed the motion together.
5. Go to your hearing
Go to court on the day the Clerk scheduled for you and explain to the judge the change you want to make and why. The judge will make a decision and enter an order which will explain the decision.
Bring these items to your court hearing:
Follow these suggestions when going to court:
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time;
- Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check-in quietly with the courtroom staff;
- Wait for your name and case number to be called; and
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself;
- Explain briefly what you want out of the case;
- After listening to you and to the other side, the judge will let you know what happens next.
If this is your first time going to court, learn more about the process of Going to court in Illinois.
6. Prepare an Order
You must prepare an Order for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities after each court appearance. The order says what happened in court and what will happen next. Give that order to the clerk for the judge's signature. It's important to keep the order in a safe place in case you need it for future court dates.
Updated: February 2018