Domestic violence is one of the most common issues in divorces, especially when dealing with parenting time questions. Because it is so commonly discussed and dealt with, however, many persistent myths have appeared on the topic. If you do not have the right information when you need it, you run the risk of missing opportunities or information that could help you out of a difficult situation.
MYTH: Domestic violence laws in Illinois only apply to mistreatment between spouses. Fact: The Illinois Domestic Violence Act explicitly states that the laws do not only apply to abuse between spouses. 750 ILCS 60/103(6) prohibits any abuse being visited on “family” or “household members,” which casts the net much wider. Past jurisprudence has included ex-spouses, roommates, co-parents of a child who lives in the home (not necessarily married), and disabled people and their caregivers under this umbrella. Essentially, as long as one or both parties to the abuse can demonstrate a relationship to the home, the law will apply.
MYTH: Abuse, for the purposes of charging someone with domestic violence, must be of a physical nature. Fact: As long as it can be shown that one person seeks to harass or control another person and has caused tangible harm in doing so, abuse can be alleged. Physical abuse need not leave bruises - if it causes harm or the imminent threat of harm, it is abuse under the law. Abuse in this context may also be emotional or even financial - essentially any act that seeks power over another person may be held to be abusive if evidence of intent and harm are presented.
MYTH: If you are an abuse victim, there is no one who must help you besides the police. Fact: In each state, there are many people who have, in their professional capacity, a mandatory obligation to report any suspicion of domestic abuse. In Illinois, the mandatory reporting requirement falls on medical care practitioners - any person authorized by Illinois law to “offer health care in the ordinary course of business” must furnish a suspected victim with resources on where to turn. They are also immunized against most (if not all) Good Samaritan actions.
MYTH: If you do not leave your abusive spouse immediately, it will be held against you when you later contest parenting time and support issues. Fact: It is becoming more commonly known that leaving an abusive spouse is not always possible, especially if one has children. To leave an abusive partner, one requires money and time, and given the controlling nature of most abusers, this may be very difficult to obtain. Good faith is generally ascribed to victims of domestic abuse unless it becomes readily apparent that this is misguided.