Physical discipline, including spanking, used to be a much more common punishment for children in the United States. Now, many parents view it as a thing of the past, but there are still those who believe it is sometimes an appropriate form of discipline. This can be a major source of conflict between divorced and unmarried parents who are in a custody dispute and are dissatisfied with each other’s parenting strategies. During these cases, questions may arise about whether physical discipline is ever appropriate, and how a history of physical punishment can affect the allocation of parental responsibilities.
Is Spanking Against the Law?
There is a law in Illinois that deals with spanking and other forms of corporal punishment, but the language is quite vague. Parents are not legally prohibited from spanking their children, but inflicting “excessive corporal punishment” is considered child abuse, and it can be grounds for action by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
But what constitutes “excessive”? This is subjective, not only in terms of what a parent believes, but in terms of what a judge might believe. The court is required to determine what is in the best interests of the child, but the result may seem subjective.
What Factors Might Be Considered “Excessive”?
Spankings that use items like a belt or wooden spoon and leave markings like bruises and welts are more likely to be seen as excessive. If the child seems to be demonstrating behaviors that are attributable to excessive corporal punishment, such as violence toward young siblings or unreasonable anger, this may be seen as a sign that excessive punishment is taking place. Furthermore, the court has found differences depending on where the punishment occurs. Was the child spanked on the rear, or slapped in the face? The latter is more likely to be deemed excessive.
Naturally, the age of the child is also a factor. A six-year-old may better recognize spanking as a consequence for bad behavior, whereas most people would consider it out of bounds to spank an infant because she cannot stop crying.
Can Corporal Punishment Be Considered Battery?
Parents may have good reason to be afraid that the behavior of their child’s other parent has crossed a line, especially if the child is demonstrating physical or emotional signs of excessive corporal punishment. In some cases, a parent may even decide to initiate criminal charges. In Illinois, if a person makes physical contact with another person with the intent to injure, that is considered battery. If a parent is charged with battery toward their child, they could not only face serious criminal penalties, they could also lose parenting time and parental responsibilities.
Contact a Wheaton, IL Family Law Attorney
If you are concerned that your former partner may be abusing your child by using corporal discipline excessively, or if you have been wrongly accused of physically abusing your child, you need the help of an attorney. At Andrew Cores Family Law Group, our experienced team of DuPage County family law attorneys can help you navigate your situation and protect your rights and your children’s best interests. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation at 630-871-1002.