Factors considered in determining child custody

Illinois parents who are embroiled in a custody battle may wonder how a judge decides who gets the children. The legal standard is the “best interests of the child.” This means that the judge’s primary concern is deciding which parent is better able to care for the children, based on a variety of factors.

The primary concern in determining what is in the best interests of the child is finding an arrangement that protects the child’s safety and mental and physical well-being. Typically, that involves evaluating the emotional ties that the child has to each parent and anyone else who lives in the parent’s household, like a sibling, grandparent or other caregiver. The judge will look at each parent’s ability to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities. If the child has a mental or physical condition that presents unique challenges, the judge will also consider each parent’s ability to provide additional care when deciding custody and visitation.

In addition, the judge may consider the mental and physical health of each parent, and how it affects that person’s ability to care for a child. If there is any evidence of domestic violence in the home, that is relevant to the determination. Illinois law requires that all factors be considered; the judge may not emphasize one factor to the exclusion of all others.

Divorce can be confusing. Emotions frequently run high, especially when children are involved. A family law attorney may be able to help ease the process in attempting to try to reach an agreement. It may also be possible for an attorney to help go to court and show the judge why a proposed parenting plan is in the best interests of the children.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway , “Determining the Best Interests of the Child“, December 10, 2014