Ask A Lawyer: Can I Get Custody Back From An Informal Arrangement?


I have custody in our parenting plan, but the kids are living with their mom right now and have been for the last month or so. What risks do I run if I try to get the kids back?

The current situation is mutual, and the kids have switched to schools closer to where she lives, but I’m getting indications she might start to make things difficult. How do I get them back if I need to?




The terms of your court approved or ordered custody arrangements will generally control and you should consult a qualified family law attorney as to the interpretation of your court orders in light of your present situation.  While informal arrangements may be workable, absent a court order incorporating the arrangement there is usually no mechanism to enforce the informal arrangement and the court order remains the default condition the court will enforce.

You may be able to require the return of your children, which generally will result in opposing party filing the appropriate proceedings to seek a modification of the court orders to formalize your informal arrangement.  As with all custody and visitation issues, the primary consideration will be the best interests of your children. 

If the present arrangement is not in the best interests of your children, you may need to take action to address the situation.  If the arrangement is best for your children, then modification of the court order is needed to formalize the arrangement and to secure your rights under the arrangement. 


Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

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