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High-Profile Child Custody Battle Highlights Complexities of Parental Rights

Posted on in Divorce

child custody, best interest of a child, Illinois divorce, Illinois family lawyer, children of divorceA high-profile and very heated child custody battle has made headlines in recent months, underscoring the complexities of determining parental rights after a divorce or break up. The battle over the nine-month old baby of Olympic skier Bode Miller and former marine and firefighter Sara McKenna has been raising questions as to mother’s rights in custody battles.

 According to’s New Day news blog and The New York Post’s online site, Mr. Miller and Ms. McKenna met through an elite dating service and dated for a short time while in California. Ms. McKenna became pregnant during that time, and, according to her, Mr. Miller requested that she get an abortion. Ms. McKenna decided to keep the baby, and, at seven-months pregnant, decided to move to New York, where she now attends school at Columbia University. Then, in November of 2012, Mr. Miller filed for custody of the baby boy.

 A family court referee made the first call in the Miller-McKenna custody battle, and it was a controversial one. The referee ruled that Ms. McKenna had been irresponsible and that she was reprehensible for moving from California to New York while she was pregnant, and subsequently awarded custody to Mr. Miller. A New York appeals court later overturned the New York Family Court ruling, and a Manhattan Family Court judge will hear arguments from Ms. McKenna and Mr. Miller to determine child custody and visitation issues. Though it is unclear how the judge will ultimately rule, it is very apparent that both sides are pushing hard to obtain legal custody of the young boy.

 Child Custody Complexities

Determining child custody is never an easy issue. However, Virginia law does provide some guidelines that may give parents an idea of what to expect when court determines child custody. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, courts initially begin with the premise that each parent should be entitled to joint custody—that is both legal and physical custody—of a child. In the law’s eyes, neither the father, nor the mother, is favored when it comes to disputes over child custody, but rather the court will determine parental rights based on the best interests of the child.

There are many factors that courts use in order to determine the best interests of the child. These may include:

  • The age, physical, and mental condition of the child;
  • The age, physical, and mental condition of each parent;
  • The relationship between each parent and the child;
  • The needs of the child;
  • The role that each parent has played in the child’s life and will play in the future;
  • The likelihood of each parent to support the child’s relationship with the other parent;
  • The willingness of each parent to maintain a relationship with the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child; and
  • Any history of abuse.
The court may also consider other factors as it deems necessary. If you are planning to get a divorce or need assistance with any family law issues, you should immediately contact an experienced family law attorney. Contact a family law attorney at Goostree Law Group today for a confidential consultation. We provide support throughout Kane, DuPage Kendall, and DeKalb counties.
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