Since the late 1970s, the state of Illinois has recognized the importance of formal regulation on parents’ child custody and visitation rights.
Today, Illinois courts are also especially attuned to domestic violence claims when hearing child custody cases. This is because state legislators believe patterns of domestic violence promote an emotional atmosphere not conducive to healthy childhood development.
For these reasons, domestic violence charges often negatively impact child custody disputes. Learn how a history of domestic abuse could affect your child custody case.
Illinois Takes “Rebuttable Presumption” Stance
When parents have a record of previous domestic battery against their children’s other parent, Illinois judges automatically take a “rebuttable presumption” stance in any subsequent custody case.
Rebuttable presumption means the court assumes neither living with nor visiting the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child. The abusive parent may, however, rebut this presumption.
In other words, they can present evidence in an effort to prove why they should, in fact, have joint custody of and visitation rights with the child.
The judge will consider the evidence with the following in mind:
- The nature and context of historical domestic abuse
- What effect the abuse may have on the offender’s parenting abilities
- Whether the judge believes there are negative implications regarding the child’s safety, development, and overall well being
Based on these factors (and others), the judge will decide whether to grant the abusive parent joint custody and/or visitation, and there are a number of outcomes you may face in your child custody case.
When an Illinois Judge Outright Denies Custody and Visitation
If a judge feels there’s a possibility you could endanger your child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health, your request will be outright denied.
Any indication that you might act out in the following ways if granted visitation or custody could cause denial, too:
- Endanger or abuse your child during a visit
- Take advantage of visitation to harass your ex-spouse or anyone else in the household
- Hide and/or refuse to return the child (also viewed as kidnapping)
- Act in any manner against your child’s best interest
Also note, no Illinois judge will ever grant visitation to an abusive parent who has been convicted of first-degree murder involving another family member of the child.
This is officially filed as a “termination of parental rights,” and is one of the rare scenarios in which a judge finds a parent completely unfit to care for or even visit the child.
Common Conditional Custody and Visitation Provisions in Illinois
When a judge hears your side of the story and then decides to grant visitation or custody, there are often conditions put into place to further protect your child and other family or household members.
They could include:
- Ordering your child’s current address to remain confidential
- Prohibiting you from meeting at your child’s current residence for visitation
- Requiring a specific location – public facility or private residence – for visits
- Ordering supervised visitation to include a provision that you pay any supervision fees
- Limiting contact to “electronic communication” instead of physical visitation
Depending on the nature of the historical domestic violence, at times a judge will allow a friend or family member to supervise your visits.
In these cases, the “supervisor” is required to file paperwork stating they take responsibility for the supervision.
Regardless of your relationship with your ex and whether it involved a history of domestic violence, you always have the right to pursue your parental rights.
That being said, Illinois tends to take a hard-line approach when it comes to protecting its children. So, if you are serious about maintaining a presence in your child’s life but have a history of domestic abuse, you need an experienced Illinois domestic violence defense attorney on your side.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.