Best Interests

How Do Judges Make Custody Decisions?

When parents cannot agree on an allocation of parental responsibility for their children (formerly custody) the Court must decide.  The first step is often mandatory custody mediation.  In mediation, a trained professional meets with both parents in an effort to reach an agreement.  If the parties’ efforts at mediation are unsuccessful, the Court may appoint a guardian ad litum (“GAL”) or a child’s representative.  A GAL or child’s representative will conduct an investigation regarding the areas in dispute and make a recommendation to the Court.  If either parent rejects the GAL’s recommendation, the Court may then order a custody evaluation.

A custody evaluation is a process where a mental health professional (typically a psychologist or psychiatrist) will evaluate the parties involved for the purpose of making a recommendation regarding significant decision making and parenting time to the family law court judge.  Generally, courts give custody evaluations considerable weight.  If the parties are still unable to agree on a Parenting Plan, then the Court will set a trial date on the issues of major decision making and/or parenting time.

The Best Interests of the Child Standard

In Illinois a judge must apply the best interests of the child standard when making decisions about parenting time and significant decision making.  In making its determination, the Court will consider a multitude of factors including:

  • the parents’ wishes
  • the child’s wishes
  • the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school and community
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s potential custodian, whether directed against the child or another person
  • the occurrence of ongoing or repeated abuse, whether against the child or another person, and
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.

Illinois courts presume that the maximum involvement and cooperation of both parents is in the best interests of the child, unless it finds ongoing abuse.

DuPage Custody Lawyers

Disputes about parenting responsibilities can be stressful and emotionally draining.  They require careful and thoughtful analysis.  You need an experienced and skilled divorce lawyer to assist you in getting a fair parenting plan for you and your children.  At Goodman Law Firm, we represent mothers and fathers.

If you are looking for an experienced litigator in Oak Brook, Naperville, Wheaton, or Chicago, contact us today at (630) 464-6700 and request a best interest consultation.