The Brady Bunch has gone from outlier to mainstream. A generation ago, stepparent/stepchildren relationships were almost unheard of. Today, the majority of households in Illinois fit this description.
Parenting time determinations have changed, as well. A generation ago, many Illinois courts still employed the “tender years” doctrine. Under this doctrine, children almost always lived with their mothers, even if they were not particularly good parents. Today, Illinois judges use a number of factors when they determine the best interests of the children. Some of the leading child custody factors are outlined below.
Most children thrive on consistency and routine. Divorce is an incredibly disruptive and divisive process. Yet even if the midst of marriage dissolution, there can be stability.
The parent who is the residential custodian, either as a result of a court order or the way things work out, will probably retain that status. This retention means that the children will live in the same house, attend the same school, have the same friends, and have basically the same routine.
Many parents express their child custody wishes without even knowing that they are doing so. Many relationships feature a “caregiver” spouse and a “breadwinner” spouse. Even if these two areas overlap, which is usually the case, these roles still remain. Parents who work late and skip school plays have a hard time obtaining custody of minor children during divorce proceedings.
Other times, the expression is affirmative. If the parents agree on a parenting time division, the judge almost always endorses that agreement. Family courts like to see parents work out their differences between themselves instead of filing motions and countermotions in court.
Illinois does not have an age cutoff when it comes to child preferences. Depending on the child’s maturity and some other factors, a judge can consider the preference of a 10-year-old and discard the wishes of a 17-year-old. As a general rule, however, many children do not express a preference for either parent. The children understandably may not want to “choose” one parent over another one.
Even if the children express a preference, the judge still has the final say based on all applicable factors.
Verified History of Domestic Violence
Allegations of mental, physical, and emotional cruelty are rather common in divorce proceedings. Therefore, many judges do not take these allegations at face value. They must hear the evidence for themselves. Or, a social services investigator must reach a similar conclusion.
The domestic violence need not involve the other party in the case or the current children. A past history of domestic violence in a prior relationship is also relevant.
Ability to Co-Parent
Illinois law assumes that children benefit from consistent and meaningful contact with both their parents. If Parent A obstructs the relationship between the children and Parent B, Parent A may have a hard time becoming the residential custodian.
Some common examples of an inability or unwillingness to co-parent include consistently missing court-ordered pickup or drop-off times, demeaning the other parent in front of the children, denying visitation periods, and granting special privileges to the children with the intent of making the other parent look bad.
Reach Out to a Tenacious Lawyer
Child custody determinations hinge on a number of parent-neutral factors. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Chicago, contact Andrea Heckman Law Flexible appointment times are available.