Violence and Child Custody in Illinois
Every parent takes precautions to protect their children from exposure to violence, including depictions in the media and, more importantly, in real life interactions. Continued contact with incidents of violence is almost guaranteed to leave a negative and long-lasting impact on the child.
Typically, the consistent presence of violence in a child's life comes from domestic violence issues in the home. One method used by the state to curtail the perpetuation of violence is to take serious account of domestic violence issues in the allocation of parental responsibilities (often referred to as child custody).
According to statistics gathered by the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the number of domestic abuse victims helped by the organization in 2016 was 41,916. Disturbingly, 8,124 children witnessed some of this abuse.
These numbers only represent reported cases of domestic violence, making the likelihood that the actual number of all adult victims and child witnesses notably higher.
When an abused parent seeks to divorce or establish custody rights against an abusive partner, domestic violence cannot and should not be ignored. While Illinois law no longer requires an abused spouse to claim violence as grounds for divorce (Illinois fully adopted no-fault divorce in 2016), Courts take allegations of domestic violence seriously, and factor this issue into its analysis of what type of arrangement is fair and safe for the parent and the child.
Every Court order that includes a provision for the parental responsibility of a child must have a parenting plan, which lays out how the parties will divide decision-making and parenting time. Parenting plans are created through mutual agreement of the parties, with Court approval, or under an arrangement formed by the Judge. In any case, the Court is always looking at the best interests of the child when making this determination, which is analyzed pursuant to a number of factors, prescribed in Illinois law.
Decision-making authority, related to issues around education, health care, religion and extracurricular activities may be allocated between the parents or awarded solely to one party. For the allocation of parenting time, or the time the child is in the physical custody of each parent, the Court begins with the premise that each parent is fit, and thus entitled to enjoy parenting time without restrictions.
However, restrictions will be imposed if the Court decides a parent would endanger a child's physical, mental, moral or emotional health.
Domestic Violence and Dividing Responsibilities
Among the factors that Courts must assess when looking at what is in the best interests of the child is whether a parent directed abuse toward the child or other household member. Abuse can mean:
- Physical abuse;
- Intimidation; and
- Interference with a household member's personal liberty.
If a party to a divorce or child custody action wants to introduce the issue of domestic violence into the case for the Court's consideration, then he or she must be able to substantiate the allegations, usually through witness statements, past convictions for domestic battery, the issue of an order for protection or the like.
If enough evidence is presented, a Court is highly likely to view the parent as unfit and therefore order a hearing to decide what restrictions on parenting responsibilities are appropriate. This can include eliminating a parent's right to see or make decisions related to a child.
However, a Court could also order supervised parenting time at a neutral locale. An experienced family law attorney can best advise on the probable outcome of child custody considerations in a case with domestic violence.
Contact an Illinois Family Law Attorney
Domestic violence is a serious issue that involves the lives and safety of multiple people, and should not be taken lightly due to the consequences. The Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. understands how sensitive this issue is for victims of abuse, and will do everything allowable to keep the abusive party away, and ensure your rights and interests are fully represented in an order for protection or family law case.
Contact a passionate Barrington family law attorney at the firm today to schedule a free initial consultation.