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How does an Illinois court determine custody?

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When Illinois parents split, one of the key issues is child custody. But figuring out who will get custody of the child is sometimes confusing. Many believe that the courts favor mothers, but the reality is that courts favor the best interests of the child. Sometimes that interest means the child will live with the mother, other times with the father.

To decide what is in the best interest of the child, Illinois courts consider a myriad of factors. These include:

  • The wishes of the child
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The health (both mental and physical) of the parents
  • The relationship the child has with each parent
  • The adjustment necessary for the child to live with either parent

On the other hand, courts do not look at parental conduct that does not impact the parent-child relationship.

After reviewing these and other factors, courts will give one or both parents custody. If one parent gets custody, it is called sole custody. Under sole custody, one parent makes all the key decisions, such as where the child goes to school, what religion the child will practice and more. If both parents get custody, it is called joint custody. Under joint custody, both parents share in making key decisions.

One should, however, keep in mind that joint custody does not necessarily mean that both parents will share parenting time equally. Often one parent will get residential custody. The child primarily lives with this parent. Meanwhile, the other parent will often have to pay child support. Illinoisans who have questions about child custody and other family-law questions may benefit from discussing their situation with an experienced family-law attorney.

Source:, "Child Custody Information," Accessed Oct. 14, 2014

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