In any proceeding related to a child in Illinois, the primary concern, by law, is always the best interest of the child. Family courts and judges are expected to keep the child’s needs and well-being among the highest priorities, and are granted the discretion, in most cases, to ensure that such interests are fully addressed. The child’s best interest is often of primary concern in child custody or visitation proceedings, and, while, some of the language in the law regarding child custody is set to change in 2016, the goal of protecting children will remain the same.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
As part of the family law overhaul passed in Illinois earlier this summer, the concept of "legal" custody of the child is essentially being eliminated beginning next year. While, in most cases, one parent may be granted primary physical custody for the purposes of school registration and child support concerns, decision-making responsibilities regarding the child will be divided between the parents either by mutual agreement or at the discretion of the court. The change hopes to bring the focus of such proceedings back to the child, rather than on “winning” or “losing” custody rights.
The changes to the law also included a number of best-interest considerations that are not explicitly mentioned in the existing law. Overall, however, the relevant factors to be taken into account in the process are essentially the same as they have been for years, including:
- The child’s needs;
- The child’s wishes, as appropriate by age and maturity;
- Each parent’s wishes;
- The child’s acclimation to home, school, and community environments;
- Mental and physical health of the child, parents, and any other involved parties;
- Parental commitment to cooperation or the level of conflict between the parents;
- Each parent’s prior history of decision-making regarding the child;
- Each parent’s willingness to facilitate and foster the other parent’s relationship with the child;
- Physical violence or the threat of physical violence by either parent toward the child or other household member; and
- Any other factor the court may find to be relevant.
Professionals Who Know the Law
Anytime there is a significant change to an existing law, there is a necessary period of acclimation as the courts, attorneys, and citizens start to fully understand the new law’s potential impact. As such, it remains to be seen exactly how the new parental responsibility law will affect divorce and child-related proceedings in practice. In the meantime, if you are involved in a child custody dispute, it is important to seek the assistance of qualified legal professional. Contact an experienced St. Charles family law attorney today and get the help you need in protecting your child’s best interests.