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Can Parents Use Corporal Punishment in Illinois?

Posted on in Child Custody

spanking, Illinois child abuse laws, Illinois family law attorney,When their children misbehave, some parents do not think twice about spanking them. However, it might be wise to think twice in certain situations, as doing so could result in criminal charges, or could lead a custodial parent to lose custody.

Spanking is permitted in Illinois, but not in excessive doses. Child discipline can quickly become child abuse when parents, immediate family members, or any person responsible for a child’s welfare inflicts excessive corporal punishment. Spanking is only one example. Others include slapping, hitting and shoving.

The problem is recognizing the line between acceptable and unacceptable corporal punishment. Unfortunately the law is not clear. The Illinois Supreme Court has held that parents may use corporal punishment as long as it conforms to the “reasonableness” standard. But what is reasonable in one parent-child situation might not be reasonable in a different parent-child situation. Ultimately, determining “reasonableness” is a fact-based inquiry.

In conducting a “reasonableness” inquiry, a court might consider:

  • The age of the child (i.e., a reasonable punishment for a teenager might not be reasonable for a toddler);
  • The child’s gender;
  • The child’s physical, mental and emotional health;
  • Whether the child is disabled or handicapped;
  • Whether the parent used a “weapon,” such as a belt or switch;
  • The physical and emotional wounds that the punishment inflicted upon the child; and
  • Whether the punishment fit the “crime.”

Corporal punishment is a controversial issue, as one recent case involving a star football player has illustrated. The player was indicted in September on felony child-abuse charges after hitting his son with a switch. He recently agreed to a plea deal that reduced the felony child-abuse charges to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault.

Illinois law punishes child abusers harshly. In addition to infliction of excessive corporal punishment, other behaviors that can lead to a child-abuse charge include:

  • Inflicting physical injury that disfigures, impairs or kills the child;
  • Creating a substantial risk of physical injury to the child;
  • Torturing the child;
  • Committing female genital mutilation;
  • Giving the child a controlled substance;
  • Forcing the child into involuntary servitude or involuntary sexual servitude; or
  • Committing child trafficking.

Parents and family members are not the only ones subject to Illinois’s child abuse laws. Anyone who resides in the household can be charged with child abuse if he or she commits one of the above behaviors. The law also applies to a parent’s significant other. While child abuse is a criminal offense, it is important to understand that a conviction can also lead to the loss of your parental or visitation rights. If these rights have been terminated, they can be restored. If you have any questions regarding child custody, contact one of our experienced Kane County family law attorneys today. We can assist those in the St. Charles area.

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