In Illinois, determination of child custody is based on the best interest of the child standard. As a preliminary matter in determining the best interest of the child, a court will often look at which parent has been the primary caregiver of the child. Specifically, the court may ask the following questions in determining who has been the primary caregiver of the child: Who has the child lived with? Who prepared the child’s meals? Who prepares the child for school including in the morning as well as with respect to the child’s homework? Who schedules and takes the child to doctor’s, dentist’s and any other appointments, as necessary? Who stays home when the child is sick and unable to go to school?
Additionally, as the child matures, the court may seek the child’s input regarding who the child’s residential custodian will be. However, one should be extremely cautious about trying to influence a child’s decision in a custody dispute. The psychological effects of the child being asked to choose between parents may be devastating if not dealt with in an appropriate manner being sensitive to the child’s desire to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents. Additionally, an attorney may be appointed to represent the child’s interest. Any attempt by a parent to influence the child will be readily apparent to the attorney who is appointed to represent the child and such attempted influence may weigh against the parent.
In making a determination regarding custody, the Court may consider the following statutory factors:
(1) the wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to his/her custody;
(2) the wishes of the child as to his/her custody;
(3) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his/her parent or parents, his/her siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
(4) the child’s adjustment to his/her home, school and community;
(5) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
(6) the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s potential custodian, whether directed against the child or directed against another person;
(7) 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;
(8) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relations between the other parent child.
It is important to understand that the application of the factors as applied by the Court in each individual case may vary depending upon the facts of a particular case.
If you have questions regarding child custody or wish to discuss your particular case, please feel free to call The Law Office of Catherine M. Byrne at 312-637-5356.