Divorce is often fraught with complications, particularly when the marriage produced children. In fact, child custody is often the most contentious aspect of a divorce proceeding.
The Best Interests Standard
Illinois courts adhere to the best interests standard when deciding child custody issues. In other words, courts base these decisions on what custody arrangement is best for the child and not on what arrangement is best for the parents. The court considers a range of factors, including:
- The child-parent relationship;
- The child’s relationship with his or her siblings;
- The child’s relationship with any person who will be present in his or her life, such as the parent’s significant other;
- How adjusted the child is to his or her current home, school and community and whether the custody arrangement would require a move;
- The child’s mental and physical health;
- The parents’ mental and physical health;
- Each parent’s financial situation;
- Whether either parent has a criminal record; and
- Whether the parents are willing to facilitate the child’s relationship with the other parent.
When the court awards sole custody, that parent has the legal authority to make all major decisions regarding the child’s care and upbringing, including education, medical treatment and discipline. When the court awards joint custody, the parents share this decision-making authority. However, one parent will have residential custody, meaning the child will live with this parent. Under normal circumstances, the other parent (in both sole and joint custody arrangements) will be granted visitation rights and required to make child support payments.
Visitation rights are not guaranteed. If the court finds that visitation would endanger the child’s physical, mental or emotional health then the judge may deny visitation rights to the non-custodial parent. For example, parents are not entitled to visit their children while incarcerated or on parole, probation, conditional discharge, periodic imprisonment or mandatory supervised release.
Courts can also extend visitation rights to other family members, such as grandparents or siblings. However, the law presumes that when a fit parent denies visitation rights to another family member then that decision was made in the child’s best interests. This is a rebuttable presumption that can be overcome by the petitioning party.
Child-support obligations stem from the child’s needs and the supporting parent’s ability to pay. The payment amount also depends on the number of children produced by the marriage:
Number of Children Percent of Parent’s Net Income
1 20 percent
2 28 percent
3 32 percent
4 40 percent
5 45 percent
6 50 percent
Note that the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that both parents share responsibility for supporting their child, and in some cases, the custodial parent must make child support payments to the non-custodial parent.
Our family law attorneys at the Law Office of Elizabeth J. Chacko, P.C. have experience advocating on behalf of Illinois children during custody proceedings. We will put the best interests of your children and your family first. Contact us today to make custody arrangements, petition for visitation rights and determine child support obligations (including modifying an existing support order). We can assist those in Wheaton, Naperville and Downers Grove.