The Effect of Domestic Violence in Illinois Divorce and Custody Cases

Domestic battery or other instances of domestic violence can have a significant effect upon how the Illinois courts handle child custody decisions in divorce or custody cases.

In Illinois, the factors that the circuit court is to consider when making a child custody determination are listed in 750 ILCS 5/602. Factor 7 addresses domestic abuse:

(7) the occurrence of ongoing or repeated abuse as defined in Section 103 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986, whether directed against the child or directed against another person;

That means that in Illinois, the court is required by law to consider previous domestic abuse that has been committed against the child or another person.  That means that domestic violence between the parents, between a parent and child, or a parent and another person (e.g. a parent’s child from another relationship) are things the Illinois court will take into account in a divorce or custody case.

As a practical matter, the Illinois court will often see even minor domestic violence as a tie-breaker in cases where the question of which parent should receive custody (or whether there should be shared care).  In cases where there is domestic violence with significant harm, the Illinois courts may impose restrictions upon visitation or otherwise structure the custody and visitation order to help protect any victims of domestic violence from further harm.

It is also important to note that there is an interplay between domestic violence and other factors in divorce and custody cases in Illinois.  For example, an act of domestic violence that injures a spouse making them unable to work can affect properly and alimony (spousal support) awards in Illinois divorces.

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