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How are a child’s best interests determined in custody cases?

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In child custody proceedings, the “best interest of the child” is a commonly heard and used phrase. When a court is called upon to make a custody decision, a number of issues will be carefully considered and weighed to reach the best possible outcome for the children involved.

The family courts take a considerable amount of time and care when making child custody decisions as the health and welfare of a child will be the main concern and consideration.

Factors considered to determine what is in a child’s best interest

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) has established a list of required factors for the court to reference when making decisions on behalf of a child:

  • Wishes of the parents
  • Wishes of the child
  • Relationships and interactions the child has with the parents
  • Potential adjustment for a child that might involve home, school or community
  • Mental and physical health of the parents and child
  • History of abuse and potential continued risk
  • Willingness and ability of the parents to work together
  • Living situation of both parents
  • Convicted sex offender status of either parent

Other factors taken into consideration:

The courts have wide discretion to determine the best result for a child, so other factors could be considered as well:

  • Race and religion
  • Work schedules and availability of the parents
  • History of substance abuse of one or both parents
  • Whether the child is a natural child or an adoptive child


The general safety and well-being of a child are the main concerns in a custody case, and the court will do everything possible to ensure that a child’s best interests are honored and respected. Each factor will be considered carefully for the best possible outcome.

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