“The best interest of the child” is a phrase often heard in several different contexts related to Illinois family law. However, they all intend to ensure that children are well protected and taken care of in every possible way. While this can be a subjective standard, it is the best one to ensure each individual situation is assessed properly. Still, it can be confusing for those dealing with a family law concern—such as the allocation of parental responsibilities—for the first time.
Factors Used In Illinois
What was once called “child custody” is now known as the “allocation of parental responsibilities” according to Illinois law. The best interests of the child in question should be the top priority in such proceedings. Obviously, it can have a significant effect on a child to live with a parent whose conduct endangers or otherwise harms them in a physical or emotional sense. However, it is sadly not uncommon for each parent to allege the other is unfit; the court then must instead weigh the actual evidence presented at hearing using several factors that keep the best interest of the child as the primary focus.
These factors include, but are not limited to:
- The situation that would best ensure the child’s physical safety and meet his or her basic needs. This includes any past history of physical violence or threats made by either parent or anyone associated with that parent (such as a new partner);
- Where or with whom the child’s identity will flourish. Considerations should be made for mental health, emotional health, and concepts like choosing a religion or identifying with a particular culture;
- The wishes of the child, taking into consideration his or her level of maturity and communication ability;
- The parents’ ability to make decisions cooperatively, and any history of being able to do so or not do so;
- Practical considerations, such as the distance between the parents’ homes and the frequency of possible visits; and
- Any other factor “that the court expressly finds to be relevant.”
When Is This Standard Applied?
The best interests of the child is the applied standard in most child-related legal matters, but the two most common are in cases dealing with child welfare—such as the potential limitation or termination of parental rights—and the allocation of parental responsibilities. In both cases, a rebuttable presumption exists that the parents will cooperate for the good of the child. If the presumption is proven false, however, the best interest standard is what the court will use in making its ruling.
One important thing to keep in mind as a parent is that negative conduct or a past criminal history is not an automatic bar to obtaining at least partial parental responsibilities, especially not in Illinois, where the court begins with a presumption that a child’s life is better when both parents are involved. However, if you have arrests or charges in your past for offenses like domestic violence, it will almost certainly affect your chances of obtaining a significant share of parental responsibilities.
Know Your Rights
A good parent wants their child to be safe and happy. If you need help making that a reality, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney to discuss your case. At Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., we help parents protect their rights while providing the best possible situation for their children. Call 630-377-7770 today to set up a free initial consultation.