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How does Illinois decide the "best interests of the child?"

Many parents in Illinois have children and are going through a divorce or are no longer with the other parent. Generally, in these situations child custody must be established for the children. Child custody litigation can be very complicated and contentious as often times both parents want to be able to parent their children. The ultimate custody determination is based on the best interests of the child. However, one may be wondering how the Illinois courts determine the best interests of the child.

The best interests of a child are determined by analyzing a number of factors. There are many factors that are listed in the statute, but not every factor applies to every child. So, the courts only analyze the relevant factors.

These factors include: the wishes of the child's parents, the wishes of the child, how the child interacts with each parent and siblings, how the child adjusts to the homes, schools or communities of each parent, the mental and emotional health of the parents, whether one parent has physically harmed the child or another person, whether there has been domestic violence, a parent's willingness to ensure the child is able to have a relationship with the other parent, whether one parent is a sex offender, if one parent is in the military and the terms of the military family-care plan.

There is a presumption that it is best for the child to have the involvement of both parents in the child's life, unless there has been domestic violence. However, this doesn't mean that joint custody is automatically granted. Also, there is no presumption that one parent should have custody over the other parent purely because they are the mother or the father.

These factors may appear to be vague to some, and there are different methods of gathering the facts necessary to analyze the various factors. If one is going through a custody dispute, experienced attorneys may be able to provide proper advice for your specific child custody issues.

Source: Illinois General Assembly, "750 ILCS 5/602" accessed on November 24, 2014

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