Often when we think about child custody agreements after divorce, we focus on what the court’s view will be of each parent’s relationship with the child. Sometimes the parents’ relationships with one another when family law judges try to determine whether shared physical custody will be appropriate. How often though do we think about protecting the relationship of siblings during a divorce process?
In a recent article, a Michigan law professor argued that most states do not do enough to protect the relationships of siblings during divorce and child custody battles. She emphasized the importance of sibling relationships saying:
“The tie between siblings is often the longest lasting relationship that a person ever experiences. Social science research makes clear that strong bonds between brothers and sisters can develop very early in childhood. Many children spend more time with their siblings than with anyone else, and siblings who grow up together accumulate a store of shared memories that can shape each sibling for life.”
This author then highlighted that the sibling relationship becomes even stronger for some siblings when they must rely on one another for emotional support during periods in which parents are absent, warring or contemplating a divorce. How do Illinois child custody laws treat sibling relationships?
Illinois Child Custody Law Regarding Siblings
In Illinois, parents may receive joint or sole custody of the children. Of the types of joint custody arrangements available, shared custody is the most common. In most shared custody arrangements, both parents share equal parental rights and obligations regarding child care and making important legal decisions for the child. Also, in many shared custody arrangements, children live at both parental residences and siblings transfer together between parental households. However, it is also possible for a court to award what is sometimes called “split” child custody. In a split custody arrangement, one parent takes primary physical custody of one child or children, and the other parent takes physical custody of the remaining child(ren).
Under Illinois law, child custody arrangements are to be determined by looking at the best interests of the child. The Illinois Dissolution of Marriage Statute (750 ILCS 5/602) defines the best interest of the child by expressly requiring the court to consider “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.”
Thus, perhaps unlike the some of the states mentioned in the article above, Illinois law expressly requires courts to take sibling relationships into account. In practice, split custody arrangements in which siblings live apart are not common in Illinois and are usually only assigned if parents can make a convincing case for why it is in the child’s best interest to be separated from siblings.
Attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. advocate for parents seeking both traditional and nontraditional child custody arrangements. If you would like to get more information on how our law firm can help you through child custody and visitation proceedings, contact our DuPage County child custody lawyers at (877) 889-4515 to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys in Illinois.