What Clients Should Know During a Custody Proceeding

June 25, 2017

By Associate Attorney Stephanie Lieberman

Upon opening a child custody case, it is important to have focused and clear idea of what type of relief that you, the client, are seeking.  In order to best serve our clients, your vision of the most desirable outcome for your specific situation needs to be reasonable within the framework of what you realistically may obtain as a legal remedy.  For example, in a typical divorce case involving children, the client needs to keep in mind what type of visitation schedule (or parenting time with your child) you would like. The client’s visitation schedule should also reflect what is in the best interests of your child. Courts consider what is in the best interest of the child as one of the primary factors when making a decision in a legal custody dispute. Pursuant to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act (750 ILCS 5/602.5(c)), when determining the child's best interests for purposes of allocating significant decision-making responsibilities, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, without limitation, some of following factors:

  • the wishes of the child, taking into account the child's maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to decision-making;
  • the child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • the ability of the parents to cooperate to make decisions, or the level of conflict between the parties that may affect their ability to share decision-making;
  • the level of each parent's participation in past significant decision-making with respect to the child;
  • any prior agreement or course of conduct between the parents relating to decision-making with respect to the child;
  • the wishes of the parents;
  • the child's needs;
  • 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;
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
  • the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child's parent directed against the child;
  • the occurrence of abuse against the child or other member of the child's household;
  • whether one of the parents is a sex offender, and if so, the exact nature of the offense and what, if any, treatment in which the parent has successfully participated;
  • and any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.

As you can see as set forth by statute, child custody issues are not about what is convenient for the parentor what would cause a greater hardship for a soon to be ex-spouse in a contentious or bitter divorce lawsuit. The gold standard in these matters is what is best for a child. Typically, stability and consistency in a set schedule is the goal. 

In order for attorneys to best serve a client in a divorce case dealing with children, the client to have reasonable expectations within the set perimeters of the legal system and to have the attorney help the client. When a client has clear intentions, our attorneys can get the best results possible for the client and his/her child(ren) during one of the most difficult times in one’s life.  Divorce clients should be flexible and patient during the divorce lawsuit, knowing that a good result takes time and effort from all parties involved in the process, which includes the client, the adverse party, counsel, the judge and the mediator, child representative, or guardian ad litem when applicable.