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Best Interest of the Child: An Important Part of Illinois Family Law

Posted on in Family Law

DuPage County family law attorneys, best interest of the childHave you ever wondered how family court judges make decisions on behalf of children? Illinois, and most other states, uses a standard of the “best interest of a child.” Though the specifics differ between states, the best interest of the child, or BIOC for short, is usually a statutory list that is part of the state’s code that governs family law. Judges must refer to this list as guidance when considering the factors of the situation to decide the BIOC.

Changes to Illinois Family Law

January 1, 2016 brought several changes to Illinois family law, including changes to the list of factors considered for BIOC. One change was that Illinois now has separate—though very similar—BIOC factors depending on whether parenting time or decision-making responsibility for the child is being allocated. Illinois also added some factors that were not previously included. 

Factors that were in Both the New and Old Laws

The statute is written as a list of factors that must be taken into account. Though there are slight differences between the parenting time and decision making allocation lists, the differences are not substantive enough for the scope of this article to take into account, so the factors discussed will apply to both portions of the statute. However, be aware that there may be slight differences. Factors that were in both the previous and current versions of the law include:

  • The wishes of the child – This was previously the second element on the list and now it is the first. This move in placement illustrates the general movement towards a child-centered approach with the new law. This does not necessarily mean that the court will do what the child wants, but the child’s wishes will be extremely relevant to whatever decision the court ultimately makes.
  • “The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community” – this section favors keeping the child somewhere that they know which will not cause too much upheaval.
  • “The mental and physical health of all individuals involved”
  • The wishes of the parents – this was previously the first element on the list, now it is the seventh.
  • “The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.”
  • Several clauses addressing a history of abuse, violence, and/or sexual offender status.
  • “Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant” – standard catchall factor for specific circumstances.

New Factors

As mentioned above, the new factors have a more child centered and collaborative approach:

  • “The ability of the parents to cooperate to make decisions, of the level of conflict between the parties that may affect their ability to share decision-making.” This is the fourth factor on the list, and though there is no specific weight given to each factor, the changes to the order of the provisions indicates some level of increased importance to the factors higher up on the list.
  • Prior agreements between parents and prior decision making involvement of each parent.
  • The child’s needs – this is eighth on the list.
  • “The distance between the parents' residences, the cost and difficulty of transporting the child, each parent's and the child's daily schedules and the ability of the parents to cooperate in the arrangement.”

DuPage County family Law Attorneys

With the new changes to Illinois family law, it is more important than ever to work with knowledgeable and skilled family law attorneys. Contact our passionate DuPage County family law attorneys at Davi Law group, LLC today for assistance.

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=075000050K602.5

http://www.cookcountycourt.org/Portals/0/Domestic%20Relations%20Division/Seminar%20Materials/DR.PA%2099-90%20%28SB.pdf

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