Illinois Best Interests of the Child Factors: What Are They Really?

Lawyers who regularly practice in the Domestic Relations – Parentage Court use the phrase “best interest of the child” often. And early on in my family law practice, I found out that it is best to actually sit down with clients and go over each and every “best interest factor” that is cited in the Illinois 750 ILCS 5/602, otherwise the phrase seems rather generic and easily provable.

The best interests factors weigh heavily in determining parenting time and responsibility allocations when those are in dispute. The child’s best interest factors are also heavily focused on when a parent is petitioning the court for a modification of allocation of parental responsibilities. It is also important to note, that there are differences between the best interest factors for allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities and the factors used for determining parenting time, as shown below.

Illinois Best Interest Factors and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

(c) Determination of child’s best interests. In determining the child’s best interests for purposes of allocating significant decision-making responsibilities, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, without limitation, the following:

  1. the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to decision-making;
  2. the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  3. the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  4. the ability of the parents to cooperate to make decisions, or the level of conflict between the parties that may affect their ability to share decision-making;
  5. the level of each parent’s participation in past significant decision-making with respect to the child;
  6. any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to decision-making with respect to the child;
  7. the wishes of the parents;
  8. the child’s needs;
  9. the distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
  10. whether a restriction on decision-making is appropriate under Section 603.10;
  11. the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
  12. the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child;
  13. the occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household;
  14. whether one of the parents is a sex offender, and if so, the exact nature of the offense and what, if any, treatment in which the parent has successfully participated; and
  15. any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

Illinois Best Interest Factors and Allocating Parenting Time

Under 750 ILCS 5/602.7, when determining the child’s best interests for purposes of allocating parenting time, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, without limitation, the following:

  1. the wishes of each parent seeking parenting time;
  2. the wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to parenting time;
  3. the amount of time each parent spent performing caretaking functions with respect to the child in the 24 months preceding the filing of any petition for allocation of parental responsibilities or, if the child is under 2 years of age, since the child’s birth;
  4. any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to caretaking functions with respect to the child;
  5. the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings and with any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  6. the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  7. the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  8. the child’s needs;
  9. the distance between the parents’ residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent’s and the child’s daily schedules, and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement;
  10. whether a restriction on parenting time is appropriate;
  11. the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child’s parent directed against the child or other member of the child’s household;
  12. the willingness and ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs;
  13. the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
  14. the occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household;
  15. whether one of the parents is a convicted sex offender or lives with a convicted sex offender and, if so, the exact nature of the offense and what if any treatment the offender has successfully participated in; the parties are entitled to a hearing on the issues raised in this paragraph (15);
  16. the terms of a parent’s military family-care plan that a parent must complete before deployment if a parent is a member of the United States Armed Forces who is being deployed; and
  17. any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

Understanding the Best Interest Factors in Your Child’s Situation

It is important to review these factors and outline how they can assist or harm you in your argument for parenting time and decision making. It is also important if you are working with an attorney, to be honest regarding your position on each factor and what can possibly assist or harm you.

When it comes to matters of child custody or the allocation of parental responsibilities or parenting time, it is important to seek advice and input from an experience, trusted family law attorney. Contact Anderson & Boback today when you’re when faced with questions about the Illinois best interest factors for your child(ren).

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