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How Do Courts Evaluate a Child’s Best Interests in a Child Custody or Divorce Case?

 Posted on February 14, 2022 in Family Law

Wheaton Family Law AttorneysIn 2016, Illinois made substantial changes to the laws regulating child custody and family law matters. Instead of using terms like “sole custody” or “visitation,” the law now describes child custody in terms of “parenting time” and “parental responsibilities.”  

One of the most frustrating aspects of a divorce, child custody case, paternity suit, or other family law case is dealing with unfamiliar legal terms. One such term you may see repeated throughout Illinois law is “a child’s best interests.” Illinois courts make every child-related decision based on what is in his or her best interests. But what does “best interests” really mean?

Understanding How Courts Determine a Child’s Best Interests

When the court makes a determination about parental responsibilities or parenting time, the court will consider many different factors to evaluate which case outcome would best serve the child.

These so-called best interest factors include factors such as:

  • Each parent’s preference regarding parenting time and/or parental responsibilities

  • The child’s opinion on the matter if he or she is old enough to have an informed opinion

  • Each parent’s involvement in the child’s life

  • Each parent’s mental and physical health

  • The child’s needs

  • Any custody agreements between the parents

  • How the parents have been handling caretaking responsibilities for the child thus far

  • The child’s relationship to siblings and other close family members

  • How adjusted the child is to his or her current home, school, and community  

  • How far apart the parents’ homes are

  • Any abuse, violence, or concerns for the child’s safety

  • Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs and prioritize parenting duties

  • The parents’ ability to cooperate with each other

How a Guardian Ad Litem May Provide Insight to the Court

Sometimes, the court appoints a guardian ad litem to weigh in on child-related legal matters. The guardian ad litem (GAL) evaluates the circumstances of the case and makes a recommendation to the court about the outcome he or she thinks is in the child’s best interests. The GAL may visit the parents’ homes, interview the child, evaluate medical records or police reports, and speak to teachers or family members during his or her investigation.

Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney for Help

The Wheaton family law attorneys at Goostree Law Group provide reliable legal advice and skilled legal representation during divorce cases, child custody cases, and other family law matters. Call our office today at 630-364-4046 to set up a free initial consultation.




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