When it comes to awarding custody in an Illinois child custody case, the number one factor is the best interests of the child. This sounds obvious, but these exact words are written into Illinois law. The best interest of the child is always the main concern of the judge. In some cases this means physical safety, where one parent may be abusive, but in many cases it’s deciding which environment would provide the best and most stable home for the child. It’s assumed by many that the mother will get the kids and the Dad will get almost nothing and that does happen, but it’s not the law.
Instead a Judge looks at the best interests of the child.
So how does the court know what’s in a child’s best interest? The law includes several factors for the court to consider. No one factor is considered most or least important; all will be applied to determine the best interests of the child. The judge has an important job in this respect – each case is different and the factors may have different weight depending on the circumstances. For this very reason, it’s extremely important to have an attorney on your side who knows how these cases usually go, what judges tend to care most about, and how to prove that you are the best person to have custody.
Here is the list of factors that can be taken into consideration by the court in an Illinois child custody case:
- the wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to his or her custody
- the wishes of the child as to his or her custody
- the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parent or parents, his siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest
- the child’s adjustment to his home, school and community
- the mental and physical health of all individuals involved
- the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s potential custodian, whether directed against the child or directed against another person
- the occurrence of ongoing abuse as defined in Section 103 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986, whether directed against the child or directed against another person
- the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child
If, when examining these criteria, none of the factors clearly point to one parent or the other, the court usually will look to the parent who can provide the most stable environment for the child. If this is how your case will be decided, you will want to make the best argument possible. We believe having the right attorney can make a big difference. Often the Judge will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to help them make the decision. Hiring an attorney who knows the GAL’s well can be the difference between winning and losing.
If you have any questions about Illinois child custody and family law, or if would like a referral to a family law attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us. All calls and emails are free and confidential.