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Best Interests of the Child in Illinois Custody Cases
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In Illinois child custody cases, the court will base their custody decision on what is in “the best interest of the child.” What does the “best interest of the child” mean? It means that the court will look at how the life of the child will be affected while he/she is in the custody of a certain parent or guardian. In coming to its conclusion, the court will look at several factors:
- What the parents of the child want in terms of the child’s custody;
- Who the child wants as his/her custodian (this is just one issue and is usually only relevant as the child gets older);
- The child’s relationship and how they communicate with each of their parents, any siblings they might have and anyone else who has a major affect on the best interest of the child;
- How the child is adjusted to his home, school and community;
- The mental and physical health of anyone involved in the custody dispute of the child, including the child;
- How violent or potentially violent the possible custodian of the child is;
- Any occurrence of abuse, whether it is toward the child or another person;
- How willing the parent that has custody of child is to encourage a strong relationship between the parent who doesn’t have custody and the child; and
- If either one of the parents is a sex offender.;
- Safety issues based on who the parents are bringing into the child’s life;
- The support system that each parent has.
Usually, these are what the courts look at in determining what the best interest of the child will be. These criteria were decided by the Illinois Legislature.
The best interest of the child will be determined on a case by case basis. The court will look at the circumstances involving each child in figuring out what the best interest of the child is. There is no exact formula in determining under whose custody will be best for the child. Although there is no formula for the courts to use in making their decisions for the custody of the child, such situations as a sex offender living in the same house as the child, one of the custodians of the child having serious health issues, one of the parents having a history of violence, or the child wanting to stay with one parent over another could be a significant factor in the court making a final decision. In cases where a step-parent is trying to get custody of the child, the law usually assumes that is will be in the best interest of the child to be with their natural parent. It is up to the step-parent to show the court why being with their natural parent is not in the best interest of the child.
In addition to parents of the child, whomever they are dating or living with will be looked at in determining whether it would be safe for the child to stay in that environment. The safety of the child is one of the most important factors that the court looks at in determining their best interest. Only the behavior of the parents that affects the child will be taken into consideration.
Finally, unless there is a an indication that there is an abuse issue, the courts will assume that it is in the best interest of the child that both parents fully cooperate with each other and are fully involved in the child’s well being. The court does not automatically assume whether joint custody is in the best interest of the child. Whether or not you have been married is legally irrelevant. Fathers and mothers each have the same chance at custody. Mothers typically get custody more often with younger children because only they can breast feed a child.
Please remember that this is general information and no final conclusions should be made based on what you have read here. If you have any questions about the best interests of a child in determining child custody or would like an attorney referral please contact us and we will do our best to recommend an Illinois child custody law firm that fits your needs.