Who will get the kids?

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Divorce isn’t a pleasant experience. The emotional toll of ending a relationship can be physically and mentally exhausting. Throw children into the mix and emotions can run high.

With so much at stake, it’s important for you to know what your rights are and how to protect your interests. Here at Miller Law Offices, we pride ourselves in thinking about the human aspect of divorce and custody issues. I personally have been through the process of divorce and child custody myself and know the stress and emotional toll it can take on a person.

In Illinois, a judge is the one who decides whether there is sole or joint custody if the two sides can’t agree. That determination is made “in the best interests of the child or children.” For the most part, both parents live within the same state but if different states are involved, the judge will have to decide what is considered the “home state” of the child. Such a determination falls under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act which is a federal statute outlining the legal reasons for what is considered a home state.

It matters because only a judge in the child’s home state can hear arguments regarding custody and placement of a child. An experienced lawyer is a necessity in this area as the consequences could be severe. However, in a nut shell, Illinois has jurisdiction to hear a custody case if the child has lived within the state for at least the past six months.

When a divorce proceeding begins and children are involved, the two sides will participate in a court-mandated and approved educational seminar discussing the legal impact of the divorce. Ideally, the two sides can come to an mutually agreeable outcome. However, if that’s not the case, then the judge will order mediation in an attempt to solve the issue.

If that doesn’t work, then the judge will hold a custody hearing to determine what is in the “best interests of the child.” At this hearing, your child or children could have their own attorney appointed which will act as their advocate. Such an attorney is called a Guardian ad Litem.

So what are the factors to determine where a child is placed and whether there is joint or sole custody. This isn’t “Good parent vs. bad parent” thing. Rather, the judge will attempt to determine what is in the best interests of the child considering several factors including:

* where the child wishes to be placed or which parent should have custody.
* what the parents want to do.
* are there other siblings involved and how does the child interact with them. How does the child fit in to his or her current surroundings.
* the character of the parents. Has their been physical or mental abuse. Do the parents have a criminal history.

Additional factors the Judge considers is the child’s adjustment to his home, school and community; and the willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the other parent and the child.

Every case is different and that’s why you need a strong advocate. Here at Miller Law Offices, we understand what’s at stake and want to put your best foot forward. We know that going through a custody battle means you might not be thinking clearly. Our years of experience will help draw out the answers to pertinent questions and we’ll work aggressively to protect your rights.