Throughout the divorce process, if you have children, you and your co-parent will need to devise a parenting plan that clearly defines the allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time schedules, and other child-related issues. In the state of Illinois, the standard used to determine many of these concerns is referred to as “the best interests of the child.” When decisions are made regarding custody of children of divorcing or separating parents, their best interests have the greatest bearing on the end result. While Illinois has a strict set of guidelines elaborating on those “best interests,” these issues may be open to interpretation, especially since the circumstances surrounding each child custody case are unique. In some cases, determining how much of a say children should have regarding what is in their best interests can be difficult.
3 Ways to Accept Your Children’s Opinion of Their “Best Interests”
Although “the best interests of the child” are critical, parents may not take children’s desires into account when addressing these matters. Here are some ways to make sure you, your co-parent, your attorney, and the court maintain a clear understanding of your children’s best interests and how their wishes may affect your case:
Reject the idea that young children have no understanding of what is good for them. Many social scientists and other experts believe that the so-called “age of reason” for children is seven years old. By that age, they are able to make decisions and judgments based on their own ideas, observations, opinions, and insights. With this in mind, if your children are around that age or older, but they tend to shy away from the spotlight, consider enlisting the assistance of social workers or other similar professionals who can observe the child and interview them to understand exactly how they feel about everything, including the impending divorce itself.
Be open to the possibility of juvenile rights in child custody being employed. Children will not be considered legal adults until they reach the age of 18, and at this point, they will be able to make major decisions for themselves, and you will no longer be responsible for them by law. However, even when children are younger, they can still provide input and insight into how matters related to child custody should be decided. Of course, courts will not rely solely on this information. When you are negotiating agreements regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities, the children’s input is useful and often quite vital, and in some cases, it may be necessary to appoint a guardian ad litem or child custody evaluator to gain an understanding of children’s wishes and determine the role they should play in the decisions being made.
Know that children are very honest and perceptive. Many children, especially those at younger ages, do not usually intentionally lie unless taught or instructed to do so. They will most likely make their feelings known about your divorce. In many cases, you will discover much more about your children’s best interests in their own truthful proclamations than you might ever be able to learn through other methods.
Contact a DuPage County Divorce Attorney
As you work to determine what is in your children’s best interests during your divorce, you should give careful thought and consideration to your children’s own perspective. For legal help creating a parenting plan and addressing other family law issues, reach out to a Wheaton, IL child custody lawyer at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation. The skilled professionals at Andrew Cores Family Law Group will work with you to reach a positive outcome to your case and ensure that your children’s ongoing needs will be met.