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In an ideal world, when Illinois parents split it up, they can make a responsible, mutually beneficial decision about who should get the kids and to what extent. But that consensus is seldom easy to reach. The couple care about their kids and want to spend time with them. At the same time, the couple is usually splitting because of serious, often emotional problems. Together, each parent’s desire to have the kids, and their problems with each other, make it difficult for them to resolve child custody on their own.

Enter the court system. It will make the decision when the couple cannot. In doing so, a judge will oversee the case and ultimately determine how child custody is divvied up. That decision will be made by looking at the best interests of the child. That is, the judge will consider a variety of factors that can be loosely categorized as developmental categorizations, how the divorce may affect development, special considerations and parenting considerations.

Each of these considerations is case-specific. They will depend on the child, the child’s age and the child’s relationship with each parent. For example, these factors may look very different for an infant than for an elementary-school-age child or for a high-school student.

Because of the many complexities in play, Illinois parents going through a divorce or break up may benefit from discussing their situation with an experienced child-custody attorney. Doing so may give them a better sense of their situation, including the pros and cons of the choices they have in front of them.

Source: ABA, “A Judge’s Guide: Making Child-Centered Decisions in Custody Cases,” Accessed April 19, 2015