Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Illinois

Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Illinois

By: Gordon & Perlut, LLC

Domestic violence is taken extremely seriously when it comes to child custody in Illinois. Indeed, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), which governs child custody and many other family law matters, expressly states that one of its purposes is to “protect children from exposure to conflict and violence.”

The IMDMA also emphasizes that child custody—which is known as the allocation of parental responsibilities under Illinois law—should be decided based on what is in the children’s best interests.

The law clarifies that it is typically in the best interests of a child to have “proximity to, and frequent contact with, both parents” because it “promotes the healthy development of children.” However, the IMDMA also explains that such frequent contact with both parents is only presumed to be healthy for the child “in the absence of domestic violence.”

In other words, the existence of domestic violence allegations or convictions can mean that the court ultimately will determine that it is not in the child’s best interest to have frequent contact with both parents, and may allocate parental responsibilities accordingly.

Best Interests of the Child Factors for Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities and Parenting Time

 Illinois courts allow parents to work together to develop a parenting plan in which they allocate parental responsibilities—which include both significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time—as long as the allocation is in the best interests of the child.

Yet in most situations where allegations of domestic violence have arisen, the parents will not develop a parenting plan for the court to approve.

Instead, the court will consider a variety of statutory factors to determine what kind of custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child and will allocate parental responsibilities based on those factors.

Courts in Illinois allocate both significant decision-making responsibilities (i.e., the ability to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as education and health care) and parenting time (i.e., spending time with the child and providing caretaking functions).

Those courts can consider more than a dozen statutory factors as well as other relevant factors that are not expressly listed in the IMDMA. For both significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time, the IMDMA cites the following relevant factors:

  • Physical violence by the child’s parent directed at the child
  • Abuse against the child or other member of the child’s household

Allocation Factors Versus Restrictions on Parental Responsibilities

 To be clear, a court can take into account domestic violence that has been directed at a child, as well as the mere presence of domestic violence in the child’s household. The child does not have to be the direct target of domestic violence for a court to consider domestic violence as a factor in allocating parental responsibilities.

Domestic violence can be a factor in how the court allocates parental responsibilities, and in some cases, it can result in a restriction of parental responsibilities. In order to restrict parental responsibilities due to domestic violence, however, a court must conduct a hearing and find that the parent accused of domestic violence engaged in conduct that “seriously endangered the child’s mental, mortal or physical health or that significantly impaired the child’s emotional development.”

Contact Our Chicago and Skokie Child Custody Lawyers

 A child custody lawyer in Skokie or Chicago is here to help with your questions and concerns about child custody and domestic violence under Illinois law. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC today.