On July 21, 2015, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 57 into law and, with that signature, took the state many steps closer to a more modern approach to family law. The act will significantly change the laws governing marriage, divorce, custody and other matters that fall under the family law banner after its effective date of Jan. 1, 2016. We will go into more detail about the particulars in a future post, but here we want to look at custody decisions and the best interest of the child principles.
For the time being, state law requires courts to consider the best interest of the child when making decisions about custody and visitation. Current statute lays out a number of factors that the court must take under advisement, examining each independently in order to build a complete picture of the child’s current situation and how the alternatives presented will affect his or her welfare. None of these factors carries more weight than the others. For the most part.
A few things can have more influence as the judge deliberates, and a case from Michigan offers an interesting illustration of one in particular. Generally, the court will not consider a parent’s conduct if the parent/child relationship is not affected. The court will even forgive past conduct if it looks as if the behavior will not be repeated. This is true in both Illinois and Michigan.
What courts generally will not tolerate is one parent undermining the other parent’s relationship with the children. A father cannot trash talk the mother to the children in order to convince them she is a bad parent. A mother cannot falsely accuse the father of violence or drunkenness in order to create a rift between the children and their father.
In fact, some courts have much less patience than others when it comes to this kind of behavior. We’ll explain more about that and the Michigan case in our next post.
29 Ill. Law and Prac. Parent and Child § 19, via WestlawNext
MLive!, “Children in bitter Oakland County custody battle to remain at summer camp; gag order issued,” Gus Burns, July 24, 2015