People who get divorced yell at each other…a lot. While we are only human, there is a level of anger is impermissible and, likely, dangerous. When one party to a divorce in Illinois is frequently screaming, breaking things, and making threats anger management classes can be ordered.
Usually, anger leads to some kind of abuse which warrants a petition for an order of protection.
“If the court finds that petitioner has been abused by a family or household member…an order of protection prohibiting the abuse, neglect, or exploitation shall issue” 750 ILCS 60/214
“’Abuse’ means physical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation” 750 ILCS 60/103(1)
“Harassment” means knowing conduct which is not necessary to accomplish a purpose that is reasonable under the circumstances; would cause a reasonable person emotional distress; and does cause emotional distress to the petitioner.“ 750 ILCS 60/103(7)
Almost any angry action could be harassment under the above statute’s definition. But the below instances are all definitely “harassment” under the statute.
“Unless the presumption is rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence, the following types of conduct shall be presumed to cause emotional distress: (i) creating a disturbance at petitioner’s place of employment or school;(ii) repeatedly telephoning petitioner’s place of employment, home or residence;c(iii) repeatedly following petitioner about in a public place or places;c(iv) repeatedly keeping petitioner under surveillance by remaining present outside his or her home, school, place of employment, vehicle or other place occupied by petitioner or by peering in petitioner’s windows;c(v) improperly concealing a minor child from petitioner, repeatedly threatening to improperly remove a minor child of petitioner’s from the jurisdiction or from the physical care of petitioner, repeatedly threatening to conceal a minor child from petitioner, or making a single such threat following an actual or attempted improper removal or concealment, unless respondent was fleeing an incident or pattern of domestic violence; or (vi) threatening physical force, confinement or restraint on one or more occasions.” 750 ILCS 60/103(7)
Sooner or later, the truly angry will “threaten physical force” per the statute.
Testimony that a spouse made a threat is sufficient evidence of the emotional abuse.
“The Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 [requires that] there must be some evidence in the record to support the relief requested.” In re Marriage of Healy, 635 NE 2d 666 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 2nd Div. 1994 (citations and quotations omitted)
“[T]estimony is evidence.” People ex rel. Hartigan v. ILL. COMMERCE COM’N, 592 NE 2d 1066 – Ill: Supreme Court 1992
One spouse saying that the other spouse said something is not just “he said/she said.” Testimony about the other party’s words is perfectly acceptable non-hearsay evidence.
“A statement is not hearsay if…The statement is offered against a party and is (A) the party’s own statement” Ill. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)
Once the order of protection is granted…the abuser may now have to attend some kind of court ordered counseling which could include anger management classes.
“Require or recommend the respondent to undergo counseling for a specified duration with a social worker, psychologist, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, family service agency, alcohol or substance abuse program, mental health center guidance counselor, agency providing services to elders, program designed for domestic violence abusers or any other guidance service the court deems appropriate. The Court may order the respondent in any intimate partner relationship to report to an Illinois Department of Human Services protocol approved partner abuse intervention program for an assessment and to follow all recommended treatment.” 750 ILCS 60/214(b)(4)
Along with counseling, the respondent in an Illinois order of protection case must surrender their guns to the Sheriff until the order of protection is lifted.
“A person who is subject to an existing domestic violence order of protection issued under this Code may not lawfully possess weapons under Section 8.2 of the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act.” 725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/112A-14(b)(14.5)(A)
If the angry outburst was not so stark, singular and threatening as to warrant an order of protection, a divorcing or divorced party can still request anger management from the courts…but only if the parties to a divorce share children together.
An Illinois divorce court can order “individual counseling for the child, family counseling for one or more of the parties and the child, or parental education for one or more of the parties” if the court finds that “(1) both parents or all parties agree to the order; (2) the child’s physical health is endangered or that the child’s emotional development is impaired; (3) abuse of allocated parenting time under Section 607.5 has occurred; or (4) one or both of the parties have violated the allocation judgment with regard to conduct affecting or in the presence of the child.” 750 ILCS 5/607.6
The appropriate counseling will almost always be recommended by a Guardian Ad Litem.
“In any proceedings involving the support, custody, visitation, allocation of parental responsibilities, education, parentage, property interest, or general welfare of a minor or dependent child, the court may, on its own motion or that of any party, appoint an attorney [called a Guardian Ad Litem] to [represent the best interests of the children]” 750 ILCS 5/506.
“The guardian ad litem shall investigate the facts of the case and interview the child and the parties.” 750 ILCS 5/506(a)(2)
The guardian ad litem, through a series of interviews and suggested appointments, determines whether counseling such as anger management would benefit the children and the parties.
“[A] guardian ad litem…shall consider the nature and adequacy of the evidence to be presented by the parties and the availability of other methods of obtaining information, including social service organizations and evaluations by mental health professions as well as resources for payment.” 750 ILCS 5/506(a-5)
The guardian ad litem then makes their recommendations available to the parties, their attorneys and the judge.
“The guardian ad litem shall testify or submit a written report to the court regarding his or her recommendations in accordance with the best interest of the child. The report shall be made available to all parties.” 750 ILCS 5/506(a)(2)
If an Illinois divorce judge sees a recommendation for anger management classes…that judge is going to order anger management classes. After all, what is the harm of therapy?
While the court waits on a parent to take anger management classes, the court will likely remove the children from the angry parent.
A court can enter “an order granting the temporary custody of…[the] children to [one parent], the court having found that [the other parent] has serious anger-management issues and has yelled, screamed, used foul language, and made derogatory comments toward the children.” IN RE MARRIAGE OF CASEY, 867 NE 2d 555 – Ill: Appellate Court, 5th Dist. 2007
The court can enter orders restricting parenting time and decision-making while “requiring a parent to complete a treatment program for perpetrators of abuse…or for other behavior that is the basis for restricting parental responsibilities.” 750 ILCS 5/603.10(a)(8)
If your spouse or ex-spouse needs anger management classes but you do not have children together…just stay away from your spouse/former spouse. Nothing requires you to communicate during or after an Illinois divorce with your spouse/former spouse. If unwanted communication becomes harassing, pursue an order of protection as described above.
If a party believes that their spouse or ex-spouse’s anger issues are so deep seated and pervasive that they need to be clarified for the court to make the appropriate therapy recommendations, a party can request a court ordered mental examination (known as a “215” in Illinois).
“In any action in which the physical or mental condition of a party or of a person in the party’s custody or legal control is in controversy, the court, upon notice and on motion made within a reasonable time before the trial, may order such party to submit to a physical or mental examination by a licensed professional in a discipline related to the physical or mental condition which is involved.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 215
The mental examination and its results are not determinative. The point of a mental examination is to give the court the information the court needs to make the appropriate orders for the parties and their children.
“The purpose of…rule  is to allow discovery that will assist the trier of fact in reaching its determination.” In re Estate of Silverman, 628 NE 2d 763 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 2nd Div. 1993
Dealing with a hot-headed spouse is terrible. Raising children with an angry parent is almost impossible. Thankfully, the family law court system seems to calm things down. Family law’s emphasis on thoughtful procedure may be nerve-wracking when you just want to divide your assets, set support and establish parenting time. Believe it or not, the courts can provide the resources and the paths forward for the parties and their children to thrive as co-parents in the future.
If you would like to talk about the various therapies that are available to you and your spouse during and after your divorce, contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to speak with an experienced Illinois divorce attorney.