Child Abuse and Custody Cases
By: M. Scott Gordon
The overwhelming majority of parents would do anything to protect their children. However, there are some who see their children not as precious things to be protected, but as bargaining chips in battles with their spouses. Abuse allegations are perceived as common in divorce actions, but in truth, genuine abuse happens no more often in divorcing couples than it does in the average couple.
How Often Do Abuse Allegations Happen?
The urban myth is that abuse allegations spike during divorce proceedings, and of those allegations, the significant majority are false. Neither of those contentions are borne out by evidence. Missouri State University chronicled sexual abuse complaints in the early 1990s – the most reliable and recent data available – that show that allegations were made in less than 2% of cases, with most of them being leveled at the father by the mother. Of the allegations made, it was estimated that only between 5-8% were demonstrably false, with no increase in frequency occurring during divorce proceedings.
In terms of emotional and mental abuse, the numbers are more difficult to pinpoint with any degree of accuracy. Many parents simply do not think emotional abuse is provable in court, and Illinois law, while stating clearly that a parent who is a danger to a child’s physical, mental or emotional health should have decreased (or no) contact with that child, is often not helpful enough. It defines abuse, but it does not go into detail about how that abuse can be established.
Rights of Parents in Custody Cases where Abuse Is Alleged
As always, any allegation must be proven before it will be acted upon, especially when the welfare of a child is at stake. Illinois has a general presumption that a child’s best interest is to have both parents in their life, but that, understandably, goes by the wayside if abuse allegations are proven. Parents have the right to defend themselves from such allegations, including the right to hire an attorney and participate in the hearings.
If a parent is found to be guilty of abuse in a Custody case, the Court will determine if spending any time with the child is appropriate. Illinois has a strong public policy bias toward children having both parents in their lives unless it would place the child in significant physical, mental or emotional danger. Hence, even if abuse is found to have occurred by the Court, the Court will remain involved if the abuser seeks to take actions to reform and eventually have some sort of appropriate contact with the child in the future.
A Child Custody Attorney Can Help
If you fear your children are in danger, or you have been falsely accused of abuse, you will need legal assistance either way. The experienced Chicagoland child custody attorneys at M. Scott Gordon & Associates know that it is easy to make an allegation, but it is far more difficult to back it up. We will do our best to ensure that you and your children obtain the best possible outcome for all involved. Contact us at our Skokie or Chicago offices to set up an appointment. We serve the entire Chicago area.