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What Does "Best Interest of the Child" Mean?

 Posted on February 15, 2016 in Child Custody

In every family law case involving children, the judge is required to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child. The phrase "best interests of the child" can seem vague and difficult to understand. However, when judges are evaluating parenting time and allocation of parental rights options, there are many factors that are always considered.

Factors Judges Consider

The law requires judges examine all the relevant factors when deciding what is in a child's best interest. This gives judges the power to consider almost anything related to the child. Major factors that judges consider when deciding what is in the best interest of the child include:

  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The wishes of the child;
  • The physical health of the child;
  • The mental health of the child;
  • The academic performance of the child;
  • Any special needs of the child;
  • The child's interactions and relationships with the parents;
  • The child's interactions and relationship with anyone else that may have a significant impact and influence on the child's life;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents;
  • How stable the current situation is for the child;
  • Any history of substance abuse or domestic violence in anyone the child is likely to spend significant time around; and
  • The willingness of the parents to encourage a healthy and stable relationship between the child and the other parent.

How a Judge Makes a Decision

Not all the factors are equal. A judge will need to weigh the importance of all the factors and decide, given all the information, what situation gives the child the best chance to live a healthy, well-adjusted life.

When the parents cannot agree on a plan for the allocation of parental rights and parenting time, a judge will often want help evaluating the circumstances. A judge may appoint a custody evaluator to meet with everyone involved and study the issues. The evaluator will then make recommendations in a written report to the judge.

A judge can also appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is a lawyer that only represents the interests of the child. Similar to a custody evaluator, a guardian ad litem will meet with the parents and the child and then make a report to the judge.

Judges often adopt most of the recommendations in the report from the custody evaluator or the guardian ad litem.

Speak With a Knowledgeable Illinois Family Law Attorney Today

If you have questions about the allocation of parental rights, parenting time, or any other family law issue, please contact a knowledgeable DuPage County family law lawyer right away. Find out how to best protect your rights. Call The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C. today at 630-462-9500.



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