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Domestic abuse allegations in Illinois family law situations

There has been renewed focus on domestic violence recently after prominent NFL players accused of domestic assault have grabbed national headlines. Among other consequences of this discussion, calls to national hotlines for domestic abuse victims increased 85 percent in September. National hotlines already turn away 170,000 phone calls each year due to lack of resources.

The NFL has pledged to commit resources to help field calls regarding domestic abuse. According to the Federal Family and Youth Services Bureau, 174,450 requests for shelter were unmet because of a lack of resources.

Overall, however, domestic violence has decreased significantly over the past several decades, according to numbers by the Justice Department. From 1995 and 2004, domestic violence fell by more than 50 percent. However, since then the numbers have held steady. All told, it is estimated that there are currently four incidences of domestic abuse for every 1,000 people each year. That means thousands of Illinois families are in some way affected by domestic abuse each year.

Whatever the current statistics, however, there is a lot at stake for victims of abuse or those accused of domestic violence. Potential criminal charges aside, domestic violence affects the whole family. When domestic abuse is alleged during a divorce or custody dispute, there can be significant ramifications.

Domestic violence in family law

Illinois law defines domestic violence as any injuring, threatening, harassing or unlawful restraint of a family or household member.

A parent or spouse does not need to be charged criminally for allegations of abuse to affect family law cases. Family law courts are very reluctant to place any child in danger. Thus, it can be difficult for a person accused of abuse to obtain custody of a child. However, courts also take false allegations of abuse seriously. That means that a spouse who falsely alleges abuse in order to obtain a better situation in divorce proceedings, for example, can face negative consequences for those actions.

By far the largest concern for couples with allegations of abuse is the well-being of children. A parent who abuses a child will face myriad hurdles to obtaining visitation or custody. This could include court-mandated counseling programs, for example. In addition, courts in Illinois make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. A prominent factor in that decision is whether there has been any incidences of abuse.

A family law attorney can help

Victims of domestic abuse should call 911 if there is immediate danger to any member of the family. For concerns regarding future violence, a protective order can accomplish several things, such as forcing an abuser to stay away from family members, attend counseling, pay child support and prohibit the abuser from owning a gun.