Though it may not always be possible, we cannot avoid the fact that research supports the idea that children benefit largely from growing up in a household with both parents. The stability offered in this ideal family structure can have lasting positive effects on a child's growth and maturity...unless the family is not so ideal. Domestic violence in a family can result in more than just a harmful relationship between the parents; it can result in the removal of your child from your home by DCFS. When the best interest of the child is considered, the quality of the family environment can determine the future development and welfare of the child. A battered parent should consider leaving the abuser if not for anything but for the sake of the child. In deciding what action to take when faced with this situation, a family lawyer can be of great value in evaluating a few things:
• If I stay in this abusive relationship, can my child be taken from me by DCFS? Yes. Although your child may not directly experience physical abuse, simply growing up in a violent home and witnessing the abuse of a parent can be enough for child protection services to step in and take control. "Failure to protect" the child can be ruled as neglect.
• If I divorce my abusive spouse, how can I be sure that I will be awarded custody? Your divorce attorney will fight on your behalf for your custody rights. You can, however, be sure that DCFS will have custody of your child if you stay with your abusive partner.
• My spouse is abusive to me, not our child. Shouldn't I try to keep the family together for the sake of the child? Let's be honest. When we are arguing for the child's best interest (as we always should be), an abusive environment can have negative effects on a child that may reach further than we think. Lenore Walker, in her book The Battered Woman, comments on what it's like for a child growing up in a violent home:
Children who live in battering relationships experience the most insidious form of child abuse. Whether or not they are physically abused by either parent is less important than the psychological scars they bear from watching their fathers beat their mothers. They learn to become part of a dishonest conspiracy of silence. They learn to lie to prevent inappropriate behavior, and they learn to suspend fulfillment of their needs rather than risk another confrontation. They expend a lot of energy avoiding problems. They live in a world of make believe.
In the efforts to preserve the traditional family structure, you may be putting yourself at risk for losing your child to DCFS. Consider what you are teaching your child by staying with your abusive partner, as well as your own well-being.
For further information on your options regarding an abusive relationship and DCFS, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859.
(Please note: The above information is merely a reflection of the State of Illinois law, and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact our office or another licensed attorney for appropriate legal advice.)