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What Can Be Used Against You in a Child Custody Case?

Couple arranges guardianship of little girl. What can be used against you in child custody.

What can be used against you in a child custody case includes some types of criminal history, lack of involvement with your child, domestic violence or abuse, an intentional lack of cooperation with the other parent, alienating the child against the other parent, and speaking badly about the other parent to the child. Any type of writing could be used against you, too, which is why it is important to be careful with texts, emails, voice mails, social media posts, and even pictures during disputes in DuPage County, Illinois.

Illinois Custody Laws

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act outlines many of the laws related to child custody. The overall aim is to keep the children’s best interests in mind while considering both parents’ rights.

Parents can have legal or physical custody of a child. In legal custody, parents have the ability and responsibility to make major decisions related to education, medical care, and other matters. Physical custody relates to where the child lives. These are now referred to as parenting responsibility and parenting time, and each can be joint (shared) or sole (only one parent has it).

The overarching principle in custody cases is the best interests of the child. Courts consider, among other things, the child’s age, health, emotional and developmental needs, relationship with each parent, and each parent’s ability to provide a stable living situation.

When Do You Need a Lawyer?

A child custody lawyer can be helpful when you and your spouse split, and you have minor children. Even if the split is friendly, divorce can be emotional, the issues complicated, and the paperwork demanding. A lawyer can advocate for you and your child while helping you figure out custody arrangements that are in your child’s best interests.

You may particularly need the assistance of a lawyer in custody disputes when you and the other parent disagree on legal and physical custody or the best interests of the child. Similarly, if the other parent is making accusations against you (whether they are truthful, false, or somewhere in between), a lawyer can help you gather or rebut evidence, meet legal requirements, and weigh the possible ramifications.

Lawyers in DuPage County, Illinois, can also offer guidance and representation in situations involving allegations of parental alienation, domestic violence, and child abuse. A lawyer can help if you are undergoing mediation, too. For example, he or she can tell you what not to say in child custody mediation.

You may need a lawyer years after an original custody case. Changing circumstances such as relocation, a new work schedule, or a change in the child’s needs can prompt modifications. A lawyer can also discuss how to get custody of your child back if you’ve lost custody. Some parents lose custody if the other parent makes a case relating to abuse, neglect, addiction, or other reasons.

What Can Be Used Against You in a Child Custody Case?

Many things can be used against the parties in a child custody case.

Behavior and Conduct

Issues such as substance abuse, ignoring custody orders repeatedly, parental interference, and an unstable lifestyle come up sometimes with a former partner. So do behaviors such as not paying child support. Courts look at these factors in the context of the child’s life and circumstances and weigh the value of the evidence when making decisions.

Criminal History

A criminal history can factor into a case if it affects the best interests of the child. For example, alleged or actual criminal activity may pose a risk to the security of a child’s environment. Crimes involving violence, sexual charges, or child endangerment are especially worrisome. The criminal history could be a parent’s, a new dating partner’s, a roommate’s, or a caregiver of the child.

Courts also evaluate the impact of the criminal history on parenting abilities. A parent might be concerned about a former partner’s ability or fitness to care for their child when the ex has substance abuse or DUI convictions. Similarly, it could be an issue if the criminal history impacts the parent-child relationship, such as causing fear or emotional distress in the child.

Recent convictions or incidents tend to have more of an impact than older offenses do. Parents can take steps such as rehabilitation, counseling, and treatment programs to show their commitment to parenting.

Parental Ability and Involvement

Parental ability and involvement are usually positive, but certain circumstances or behaviors may raise concerns. One is excessive involvement or overcontrolling behavior. For instance, one parent might view a former partner as being overly intrusive in their child’s life.

On the other side of the spectrum, patterns of neglect or minimal parental involvement are likely to raise concerns with the court, too. Even a demanding work schedule could be negative if it prevents a parent from being physically or emotionally present for the child.

Domestic Violence and Abuse

Claims of domestic violence or abuse in custody disputes are serious. If they are false, one parent could be actively trying to thwart the other parent. If the accusations are true, then the child’s safety could be at risk.

Some cases do involve a clear-cut, documented history of domestic violence or abuse. Courts may see this as threatening the child’s emotional and physical safety. Judges consider any emotional trauma, fear, anxiety, and behavioral or psychological issues the child has as a result. They also assess the parent’s fitness to provide a safe and stable environment for the child.

Evidence of abuse or domestic violence can include any prior court orders or protective orders, a pattern of repeated incidents (often more concerning to the court than isolated occurrences), photos, medical records, police reports, and witness testimonies.

Anger management, counseling, therapy programs, and other types of rehabilitation by the parent can factor into a court’s decision to allow contact. The court may order supervised visitation or safety plans.

Other Factors the Court Takes Into Consideration in DuPage County, Illinois

Courts consider factors such as the willingness of one parent to cooperate or communicate with the other. Alienation does not go over well.

Alienation or Manipulation

Alienation or manipulation by one parent to undermine the child’s relationship with a former partner can greatly affect a custody case. Courts view these behaviors negatively and encourage parents to have healthy relationships with their children.

Examples of alienation or manipulation include false allegations, involving the child in legal matters, sabotaging special events involving the other parent, destroying photographs or old letters from the other parent, and withholding details about the child’s medical appointments or extracurriculars.

Alienation and manipulation can be tricky to prove and require strong evidence. Parents can use witness testimonies, social media posts, voice mails, statements from therapists, or records of the child’s distress as evidence of the emotional, psychological, or behavioral impact these behaviors have had on the child. Similarly, violating court orders or parenting plans can serve as evidence of alienation. If the child is fearful, anxious, or hostile toward the non-alienating parent, courts can consider this, too.

Custody modifications may be necessary to protect the child, especially in persistent cases. Other remedies may include supervised visitation and therapy for parents doing the alienation.

Open Communication and Cooperation With the Other Parent

Open communication and cooperation with the other parent can help your child custody case in several ways.

  • It shows you prioritize your child’s best interests over personal grievances.
  • You and the other parent can more easily make decisions about your children’s upbringing, education, medical care, and other important matters.
  • Cooperation can prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications that lead to conflict. Children benefit from reduced conflict between their parents.
  • Parents cooperating with each other usually means a more stable and consistent environment for the child.
  • Parents who can cooperate are more likely to develop effective parenting plans.
  • Showing your ability to cooperate demonstrates flexibility, which can be essential due to a child’s often-changing needs.

Negative Impact of Speaking Ill of the Other Parent

Speaking ill of the other parent, including on social media, is part of what can be used against you in child custody. These behaviors may harm the child’s well-being and lead to court disapproval. Many children deeply love both of their parents and may experience distress, confusion, anxiety, and feelings of being torn when one parent talks badly about the other.

Talking badly about the other parent one time may not do much harm, but it depends on context. An email could be extra damaging and easier to take out of context, depending on the other types of evidence present. Evidence can be ambiguous, irrelevant, or misleading, and judges in DuPage County, Illinois, scrutinize it carefully.

Judges expect parents to support the child’s relationship with the other parent, so a parent who consistently speaks negatively about the other parent may have less credibility. Courts may also see the parent as uncooperative.

Speaking ill of the other parent can rise to the level of manipulation or alienation. Courts may order custody modifications when necessary.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.