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The “Best Interests Of The Child” Standard in Illinois Family Law

Posted on in Child Custody

Illinios custody attorneyDuring a divorce or custody proceeding, a phrase that comes up with regularity is the “best interests of the child.” This is the standard used by the court to arrive at final decisions on issues like parenting time, but it can sometimes be defined in confusing ways, especially because the same standard can be used for multiple different issues. If you are going to court to discuss custody issues, having an idea of what this standard actually means can be a big help to you.

Parents’ Decisions Usually Honored

First and foremost, it helps to know that the court will only become involved in custody-related questions in some cases, not all. Generally, a court will honor any agreement that you and your spouse come to regarding parenting time, support, and any other issues like healthcare or education unless that agreement can be shown to be manifestly unreasonable. For example, the court will not permit a couple to put all the financial burden of care for a child onto the spouse who makes less money. If you cannot agree or the agreement is unconscionable, the court will step in.

What many people do not consider, however, is that one indirect way that an agreement can be unreasonable is if it puts the child or children in situations that could be harmful to their development. For example, if a couple decides that a parent who has been convicted of domestic violence in the past should still have equal parenting time, the court might overrule this because it arguably places the child in danger. In other words, it is not in the child’s best interests to permit such an arrangement.

Factors in Determining Child’s Best Interests

If necessary, the court will determine the child’s best interests in your case by evaluating a list of factors in the law, each of which represents a potential issue that needs to be assessed. Since every custody case is so unique, every factor matters. Issues such as past criminal history might be irrelevant in your case if neither you nor spouse has been in trouble with the law, but say, child or parental mental health concerns, for example, might be very valid, where another family might have no such issues to debate.

Generally, the state will attempt to keep both natural parents in the child’s life if at all possible, but the ultimate determination of custody may still go against you, or may be limited. It is important to note that it is possible to appeal or ask for an adjustment in a custody case, but the standard allowing you to do so is very high - appealing solely because of your dissatisfaction with the ruling will not get very far. More acceptable reasons to appeal would include a belief that the judge showed bias, for example, or that a substantial material error was made in the determination.

Contact Our DuPage County Custody Attorneys

Custody determinations are by far the most high-stakes part of divorce proceedings and having an understanding of the legal theories used to make them can help ease the confusion and complexity of the process. The experienced attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry and Associates, P.C. are happy to try and assist with questions and concerns. Contact our office today to set up an appointment with a passionate DuPage County child custody attorney.

 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/075000050K602.5.htm

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=075000050K602.5

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