September 27, 2006

DuPage Custody Case: Ethnic Identity a Factor?

Despite the recommmendations of two custody evaluators that a DuPage County father have the primary residential custody of a two year old daughter, the court awarded custody to the mother, based in part, on the fact that the mother and child shared an African-American heritage.

The question arises in all custody cases as to what is in the developmental best interest of a child. Which parent, the court must find, is best suited to provide a parenting environment to meet the developmental best interests of the child? Most courts will, on petition of the parties, appoint a specially trained psychologist to evaluate the factors that the court must consider in an award of custody. Section 602(a) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Act) (750 ILCS 5/602(a) (West 2004)) provides that the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:

"(1) the wishes of the child's parent or parents as to his custody; (2) the wishes of the child as to his custodian; (3) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parent or parents, his siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest; (4) the child's adjustment to his home, school and community; (5) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (6) the physical violence or threat of physical violence by the child's potential custodian, whether directed against the child or directed against another person; (7) the occurrence of ongoing abuse ***; and (8) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child"

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