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How is Child Custody Determined?

If you are going through a divorce and have minor children from your marriage, or if you are separating from a partner with whom you share young children or teenagers, our Illinois child custody attorneys know that you likely have many different questions about the child custody process under Illinois law. One common question we receive concerns how courts determine child custody. How is child custody determined in Illinois? Many factors play a role in determining how courts allocate parental responsibilities. 

Understanding the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

You should know that courts in Illinois do not technically determine child custody, since the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) no longer uses the terminology of ‘child custody.’ Rather, courts are responsible for allocating parental responsibilities, which include significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. 

When parents can reach an agreement about how they will share parental responsibility, the court can allow the parents to allocate parental responsibilities through a parenting plan as long as the allocation is in the best interests of the child. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, or if they can only come to an agreement about the allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities or parenting time (or vice versa), then the court will allocate parental responsibilities in an allocation judgment.

Best Interests of the Child Standard

When courts allocate parental responsibilities, they rely on the best interests of the child standard for determining what kind of allocation makes the most sense given the particular facts of the case. The best interests of the child must also be the focus when parents allocate parental responsibilities through a parenting plan. In focusing on what is in the child’s best interests, the court uses a variety of factors that are outlined in the IMDMA. Those factors include but are not limited to the following items cited in the IMDMA:

  • Wishes of the child when the child is mature enough to express a reasoned and independent preference for how parental responsibilities should be allocated;
  • Wishes of the parents;
  • Needs of the child;
  • Child’s present adjustment to his or her home, school, and general community;
  • Physical health of the parents, the child, and any other relevant parties;
  • Mental health of the parents, the child, and any other relevant parties;
  • Parents’ ability and willingness to cooperate with one another for the benefits of the child;
  • Level of existing conflict between the parents;
  • Each parent’s previous participation in significant decision-making responsibilities or parenting time;
  • Existence of a previous agreement between the parents about how they will share parental responsibilities;
  • Distance between the residences of the parents;
  • Costs and difficulties of child transportation;
  • Willingness of each parent to help ensure that the child maintains a continuing relationship with the other parent;
  • Physical violence directed at the child or committed in the child’s presence or household;
  • Either parent’s past conviction as a sex offender; and/or
  • Appropriateness of a restriction on parental responsibilities.

Contact Our Illinois Child Custody Attorneys

Do you have questions about how parental responsibilities will be allocated in your child custody case? Our experienced Illinois child custody lawyers can speak with you today. Contact Demetrios N. Dalmares & Associates, Ltd. to learn more.

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