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IL family lawyerWhen you get a divorce in Illinois, the state requires you and your spouse to submit a parenting plan for any minor children you may have. The ideal option is to come to an agreement with your spouse about how you will handle child-related issues, like parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. However, if you cannot come to an agreement, the court will be forced to make certain decisions about parenting time and decision-making responsibilities for you.

Elements Considered to Determine Your Child’s “Best Interests”

If the court determines that the judge must make certain decisions for you and your spouse concerning your parenting plan, the judge will do so based upon the best interests of your child. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the elements that are involved when making a determination on the child’s best interests include:

  • The child’s wishes, taking into consideration their age and ability to form independent opinions
  • How well the child has been fitting into his or her home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of the child and the parents
  • The level of cooperation between the parents
  • The willingness between each parent to help the child maintain a close relationship with the other parent
  • The child’s needs
  • The wishes of each parent
  • Whether or not there has been a history or threat of physical violence or abuse to the child or another member of the child’s household
  • The quality of the relationship between the child and their parents and other members of his or her family
  • The willingness of each parent to put the child’s needs ahead of their own

In many cases involving contested child issues, a guardian ad litem is assigned to the case to help the judge understand the above elements as they pertain to the individual child’s case. The guardian ad litem acts as the child’s representation in hearings and will conduct his or her own research to determine what the child’s best interests are. Once they have completed gathering information, they prepare a report that they then share with the court. The judge does not have to go with the recommendation of the guardian ad litem, but they usually do.

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