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Attacking Your Co-Parent’s Character Rarely Has the Intended EffectDivorcing or separated parents in a dispute over their parenting time are often looking for something that will give them an advantage over their co-parent. Pointing out flaws in your co-parent’s character feels like a strong argument for giving you a greater share of parental responsibilities. However, character attacks are not always effective in a parenting case and may instead backfire on the accuser. You will be best served during your parenting case by demonstrating the strengths of your own character and only bringing up your co-parent’s lack of character if you can explain actual ways that it is harmful to your children.

Importance of Character

Someone’s character is relevant when a court rules on the allocation of parental responsibilities if it concerns their morality and judgment. Illinois law states that providing moral and ethical guidance is one of the roles of a parent. An immoral parent may fail in that role by demonstrating a lack of morality or not teaching their children the difference between right and wrong. Other parents show a lack of good judgment that puts their children in danger or neglects their upbringing. You can express your concerns about your co-parent’s character to the court, but the court will find your claims more credible if you present third-party evidence, such as:

  • Character witnesses testifying in court
  • Character letters submitted to the court
  • Child services professionals testifying on their observations of the children

If you are the one whose character is under attack, you can present witnesses that testify to your good character as a parent.

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Calling Character Witnesses During a Parenting CaseYou are most likely to use a subpoena during your divorce when you need your spouse to turn over important documents related to your marital finances. Using subpoenas on potential witnesses has become less common in Illinois since the state made all divorces no-fault cases. When spouses needed to prove fault in a divorce, they called on character witnesses to support claims of infidelity or immorality. Character witnesses can still be useful during a divorce when you are trying to establish the allocation of parental responsibilities.

What Witnesses Provide

You may be concerned about leaving your children alone with your spouse if he or she can be irresponsible or abusive. However, a court may believe your own testimony on the subject to be biased because you could benefit from portraying your spouse as an unfit parent. A third-party witness would support your claims by testifying that he or she saw your spouse:

  • Act recklessly or abusively with your children;
  • Regularly fail to fulfill his or her parental duties; or
  • Expose your children to unhealthy situations.

Identifying Witnesses

A witness in a parenting dispute should be someone who sees your children regularly, but a court may view testimony from a family member or close friend as being biased towards you. Ideally, you would find a witness who does not have a personal connection to you, such as a neighbor, teacher, coach, or babysitter. This person’s only concern should be towards what is best for your children.

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