Many people think that just showing that they are a good parent is enough to win a custody battle in Illinois. But what if the other person is also a good parent? Judges have tough decisions to make when deciding who should have custody of kids and the law provides certain criteria that they have to consider. Knowing what the criteria are will help you focus on which of your strengths need to shine through. Trust me, your spouse's lawyer is hoping that addresssing these issues will be overlooked by your side (as sometimes happens when people have inexperienced or crappy lawyers). Not a chance here!
Unless you and your spouse can ultimately agree on custody issues for your kids, a judge will have to decide. Sometimes this is done with the assistance of a Guardian Ad Litem for the child, a Child’s Representative or an Attorney for your child. What the court ultimately needs to decide is what is in the best interest of the child. They don’t care about you or your needs, or that of your ex. Its all about the kids and what they need and where they will be better off. This can be an incredibly hard decision for the courts to make when you have two good parents. Some people think its all about money or time at home with the child, but there is more to it than that. Courts will consider a variety of factors including (not in any particular order):
- What everyone wants (but if there is a custody fight, it pretty much assumes that mom and dad want something different!);
- What the child wants (how important this is depends on the other factors and also the age and maturity of the child);
- The relationships and interactions the child has with everyone involved: the parents, brothers and sisters, other people who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
- The child’s adjustment to the community, home, school, etc.
- Mental and physical health of everyone
- Issues of physical violence or abuse
- The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage and facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and child.
How this works is explained more fully in my free book about divorce in Illinois, “Defending the Ending”. Be sure to grab your copy! For even more information, let’s sit down and talk about your child custody concerns at my office in Schaumburg or Itasca.