Virtually anyone in Illinois who is familiar with the concept of a child custody arrangement likely knows that the agreement is ultimately based upon the child’s best interests. However, what exactly does “best interest” mean when it comes to child custody agreements? When this is in question, there several specific factors considered in addressing the issue.

While divorce might be a necessary and appropriate course of action for a set of parents to make, the court also recognizes that the well-being of any children involved should be a priority. Parents do have the opportunity to address their children’s needs by drafting a child custody agreement during mediation or mutual negotiations, but a judge must approve it before it can be legally enforceable. Before a judge signs off on an agreement, he or she will likely review some of the same factors that the parents did.

One of the top priorities for many parents is continued access to the child, and in the absence of extenuating factors, most children do benefit from easy access to both parents. Additionally, any health considerations or special needs of the child will be taken into account, as well as the physical capabilities of each parent to provide necessary care. If a child is considered old enough, a judge might also take his or her wishes into account.

History of domestic violence or emotional abuse are on the more serious end of the spectrum of factors that are taken into account when trying to decide what arrangement is truly in a child’s best interests. While divorce is a significant life event that can shift what is normal for a family, the final goal of a successful child custody agreement should be to minimize this impact for children. When parents are unable to come to an agreement outside of court, an Illinois judge can consider the evidence, hear testimony and issue an impartial ruling on the matter.

Source: FindLaw, “Focusing on the “Best Interests” of the Child“, July 21, 2015