Spanking in Illinois

mad childThe Adrian Peterson arrest (the NFL player charged with child abuse because he hit his child too hard) sparked a national conversation frequently heard on the floors of the domestic relations court among lawyers: Is it ever appropriate to strike a child? When does it constitute abuse?
When it comes to parents physically disciplining their children, some form of it is legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, the states differ widely regarding what exactly is allowed.
In Illinois, the this subject is governed by the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. Section 325 ILCS 5/3 defines an “abused child“, as it related to corporal punishment, as any child whose parent/immediate family member/person responsible for the child’s welfare/individual residing in the same house/paramour of child’s parent inflicts “excessive” corporal punishment.
Most states’ laws reference similar standards, such as parents using only using “reasonable and appropriate physical force”, but what is “reasonable and appropriate” and not “excessive” is difficult to define. In each state, it will depend on existing case law, the specifics facts of the case, the interpretation of the judge, and the discretion of the prosecutors who must determine whether the case warrants charges of abuse.
In the context of divorce, if parents are involved in a custody dispute and they and the children are the subject of a custody evaluation, the parents’ discipline methods may be reported to the court and may be a factor in a custody determination, if not a criminal proceeding under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. Again, it will be in the judge’s discretion whether the discipline is unreasonable or excessive. Inevitably, opinions will vary.

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