Believe it or not, in Illinois, parents still have a right to use corporal punishment to discipline their children (In re F.W., 261 Ill. App. 3d 894, 898 (4th Dist. 1994)) but this right has limits. Under 705 ILCS 405/2-3(2)(v) a child “can be found to be abused if they are victims of ‘excessive corporal punishment.’ This is a vague statement and is left for a lot of interruption on behalf of the Courts. According to Andrew Zerante in the NIU April 2015 issue of the Child Law Newsletter, the courts will use a best interest standard to decide what constitutes excessive corporal punishment. Some of the factors the courts look at according to Andrew are:
1. The amount of damage inflicted: cuts, bruises, welts, and fractures.
2. The demeanor of the child: whether the child exhibits anger or violent tendencies, or whether he or she demonstrates signs of psychological issues that can be attributed to the corporal punishment received.
3. The area of the body being affected: for example, a spanking to the buttocks will be assessed in a different manner than a slap to the face.
4. The likelihood of further instances of punishment that would exceed the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable.
5. The danger to the child of further bodily harm or mental trauma.
6. The age of the child.
7. The purpose of the punishment: whether it was for correcting misconduct by the child, teaching a lesson, or done in anger.
8. General reasonableness standards—that is, within the bounds of reasonableness and humanity.
An example of a case where excessive corporal punishment was found, showed the children exhibiting scares from their wounds and a mother who was unable to perceive when she was behaving in an overly aggressive manner In Interst of L.M.., 189 Ill. App. 3d at 401. However, a case where a mother repeatedly used a wooden spoon on her child, once with enough force to cause bruising, was not excessive punishment. This finding also had to do with the mother and child relationship and how the punishment was administered to the child In Interest of J.P., 294 Ill. App. 3d 991, 1002-06 (1st Dist. 1998).
My experience in domestic relations court, is that any type of corporal punishment will be scrutinized by the Judge and can possibly elicit a DCFS investigation if deemed necessary. Every parent has a right to discipline their child but that discipline will be viewed and evaluated by the Court if it comes to their attention.