The best interests of the children is the overarching principle in parenting time divisions. Most good parents agree with this concept. Many parents disagree as to the specifics, however. Furthermore, some parents have trouble distinguishing the needs of the children from the wants of the children. They also confuse their own desires with that is best for the children.

So, Illinois law sets out a number of child custody factors to help parties make this important decision. These factors are relevant in both original marriage dissolution or paternity proceedings and in subsequent modification actions.

Most of these cases settle out of court. But a Schaumburg family law attorney must be extremely mindful of these factors during the negotiation and drafting process. If the final agreement does not jive with these factors, the judge will probably not approve it, and the parties must return to the drawing board.

Ability to Co-Parent

The new Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage law largely does away with the old managing conservator/possessory conservator model. Instead, both parents must work together. So, while they do not need to be friends, the parents need to be civil toward one another. If one parent is not able to do that, this parent is unlikely to be named as the residential parent.

History of Violence

Most courts have a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to physical, emotional, verbal, or other forms of family violence. It does not matter if the incident was recent or if it occurred years or decades ago. To get back on an even footing, the alleged abuser generally needs to dispel the allegations, at least to a large degree.

Parental Fitness

Some parents have physical, emotional, or other limitations which inhibit their ability to be attentive parents. An original parenting plan division should account for these limitations. Likewise, some parents overcome such limitations or develop them later. A modification action should account for these things.

Current Environment

In child custody matters, many judges want to leave well enough alone. In other words, if the current parenting time division is working, even if there are some problems, most judges like to keep it in place.

Child’s Relationship with Each Parent

Much like parental fitness, this factor varies over time. As a general rule, most children feel closer to their mothers when they are younger and closer to their fathers when they are older. But that’s just a general rule, and every family is different.

Child’s Wishes

This factor is not as significant as some people think. In Illinois, a judge may ignore the preference of a teenager and honor the preference of a 7-year-old. It depends on how mature the child is. Furthermore, many children do not express preferences. They do not want to choose one parent over the other one, and parents should not force them to do so.

Each Parent’s Desires

In this area, agreements are almost always better than litigated resolutions. There is an old saying among lawyers that, even if the worst parent is named the residential parent, that outcome is better than a trial. That is obviously not true in all cases, but it is true in most cases.

Connect with an Assertive Lawyer

Parenting time divisions must be in the best interests of the children. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Chicago, contact the Law Offices of Martin A. Delaney III, Ltd. After-hours and home visits are available.