When making a decision on which parent will receive full or partial custody of a child, the state of Illinois looks for an arrangement which would be in the best interest of the child. This law means that the child’s needs will take precedence over other factors when the court decides who will have custody of the child.

How the court determines child custody

To determine what would be in the best interest of a child, the court has to consider several factors before deciding what would most benefit the child. Each case is unique, but the general provisions include:

  • The wishes of the parent or both parents.
  • The child’s wishes.
  • The child’s relationship with either parent or with each sibling.
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her school and community.
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved.
  • Physical violence or the threat of physical violence by the parent against the child or any other person.
  • Ongoing or repeated domestic abuse by the parent against the child or any other person.
  • The willingness and ability of either parent to create and foster a close relationship with the child.
  • Either parent’s history as a sex offender.
  • The terms of a parent’s military family care plan that a parent must complete before deployment by a branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Stepparents and child custody

Courts generally give preference to biological parents when determining custody of a child. If a stepparent can successfully prove to the court that the best interest of the child requires preferring the stepparent over a child’s biological parent, a court may award custody rights to a stepparent.


The statute explains that a parent’s past and present conduct does not come into consideration unless that conduct affects his or her relationship with the child. However, a parent’s conduct will be a factor if it could harm or endanger the child.

Other issues

Illinois is one of several states that does not have a presumption for or against joint custody. While focusing on the best interest of the child, the law presumes that unless one of the parents has committed some kind of abuse, the child’s best interest would benefit from as much interaction as possible with both parents.

The law does not require that siblings stay together with one parent, but courts generally prefer to keep siblings together. However, if there is a special reason for a particular child to stay with one parent, such as for medical care, the court will likely decide to award custody to the parent most likely to give care to that child.

The state of Illinois takes several factors into account when determining which parent receives legal custody of a child. Since each case is different, the court takes into account what will determine the best interests of the child.