Are siblings always a package deal in child custody cases?
Whether you live here in Illinois or anywhere else in the United States, child custody disputes are often complex. Courts try to make custody decisions that reflect the best interests of the children, but those interests can change as the children get older. Even then, for better and worse, it is often difficult for the non-custodial parent to alter the custody arrangement without the cooperation of the parent who has primary custody.
Non-custodial parents usually must prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances in order for custody to be re-evaluated. It could be even more difficult if seeking custody of just one child without his or her siblings, as courts generally try to keep kids together when possible.
A celebrity example of this situation may soon be playing out in court, or at least in the media. Jon and Kate Gosselin, of the reality show “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” got a divorce in 2009. Kate was awarded primary custody of the couple’s set of twins and their sextuplets, and the show was renamed “Kate Plus 8.”
According to news sources, Jon and Kate’s 11-year-old daughter Hannah (one of the sextuplets), recently expressed interest in coming to live with him. She reportedly no longer wants to be filmed as part of the reality show and called her mother “cruel” for insisting that she continue to participate. Jon has intimated that he might file a motion to change custody regarding Hannah, but it is unclear if he will ultimately do this.
Outside opinions from family law professionals suggest that Jon’s chances of success in this endeavor would be slim. For starters, his own home life does not appear to be stable (he has changed employment at least twice recently and was evicted from his home last October). Additionally, while courts do consider the wishes of older children when making custody decisions, courts generally weigh the preferences of teenagers (14 and older) more heavily than those of a younger child.
Finally, even if Jon could prove that a change in custody is warranted (which isn’t necessarily easy to do), there would still be the issue of separating Hannah from her siblings. The court could potentially be even more hesitant to split siblings apart in the case of multiples, who often have an even closer bond than children born individually.
Each case is unique, and there is no telling how a court will rule without hearing all the facts. That being said, there seem to be many factors working against Jon Gosselin if he decides to pursue a change in custody.