Orders of protection are not for everyone. Specifically, orders of protection are for people who had an intimate bond with their abuser. The protections afforded under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act are so powerful because it protects against abusers who know their victims so well.
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act protects persons from “physical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation” by “a family or household member.” 750 ILCS 60/103(1), 201(a)(i)
Family members are clearly husband and wives…but what about boyfriends and girlfriends?
For the most part, boyfriends and girlfriends are covered by the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act defines a “[f]amily or household member” to include “persons who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship.” 750 ILCS 60/103(6)
Whether someone really is a boyfriend, girlfriend or is in a dating relationship is not just a matter of romantic speculation. If there is no dating relationship…there is no order of protection.
“[W]hen parties are not married and do not live together, the petitioner must show a dating relationship in order to seek relief under the Domestic Violence Act.” McClellan v. Hull, 2023 IL App (1st) 220465
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act does not define what a “dating relationship” is but it does define what a dating relationship is NOT. “[N]either a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a dating relationship.” 750 ILCS 60/103(6)
Why Does It Matter If The Victim-Abuser Are Dating Or Not?
If the abuser and victim do have a dating relationship. The only relief available is a stalking no contact order.
“A petition for a stalking no contact order may be filed when relief is not available to the petitioner under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.” 740 ILCS 21/15
The proofs required for a stalking no contact orders are more difficult to establish than the proofs required for an order of protection. For a stalking no contact order, you must prove there was stalking. Most stalkers are not very obvious in their stalking.
“’Stalking’ means engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, the safety of a workplace, school, or place of worship, or the safety of a third person or suffer emotional distress.” 740 ILCS 21/10
In order to get an order of protection the victim merely requires the court to find an instance of “abuse.”
“Abuse” [under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act] means physical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation but does not include reasonable direction of a minor child by a parent or person in loco parentis.” 750 ILCS 60/103(a)
If “abuse” is harassment, almost everything is abuse.
““Harassment” means knowing conduct which is not necessary to accomplish a purpose which is reasonable under the circumstances; would cause a reasonable person emotional distress; and does cause emotional distress to the petitioner. 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;
(iii) repeatedly following petitioner about in a public place or places;
(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;
(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 from an incident or pattern of domestic violence; or
(vi) threatening physical force, confinement or restraint on one or more occasions.” 725 ILCS 5/112A-3(b)(4)
A stalking no-contact order’s violation is NOT a big deal with little to no penalty the first time around.
“An initial knowing violation of a stalking no contact order is a Class A misdemeanor. Any second or subsequent knowing violation is a Class 4 felony.” 740 ILCS 21/110
While a Class A misdemeanor and a Class 4 felony can result in jail time…they rarely do.
Meanwhile violators of an order of protection are going to jail.
“To the extent permitted by law, the court is encouraged to:(i) increase the penalty for the knowing violation of any order of protection over any penalty previously imposed by any court for respondent’s violation of any order of protection or penal statute involving petitioner as victim and respondent as defendant;(ii) impose a minimum penalty of 24 hours imprisonment for respondent’s first violation of any order of protection; and(iii) impose a minimum penalty of 48 hours imprisonment for respondent’s second or subsequent violation of an order of protection unless the court explicitly finds that an increased penalty or that period of imprisonment would be manifestly unjust.” 750 ILCS 60/223(g)(3)
The threat of immediate jail time distinguishes the importance of establishing a dating relationship in order to get an order of protection.
How Do You Prove To The Court That You Are Dating Your Abuser?
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act asks that when we read the act that it “shall be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes.” 750 ILCS 60/102
Among the purposes delineated in the Illinois Domestic Violence Act is to “[r]ecognize domestic violence as a serious crime against the individual and society which produces family disharmony in thousands of Illinois families, promotes a pattern of escalating violence which frequently culminates in intra-family homicide, and creates an emotional atmosphere that is not conducive to healthy childhood development.” 750 ILCS 60/102(1)
“The intent of the legislature in adopting the Domestic Violence Act was to keep people from harassing, striking, and interfering with the personal liberty of people with whom they have had intimate relationships. The express legislative purpose of a statute is to prevent and alleviate domestic violence. The Act specifically seeks to expand the civil and criminal remedies for victims of domestic violence.” People v. Whitfield, 147 Ill. App. 3d 675, 679 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986)
An Illinois divorce or domestic violence court should “decline to take such a restrictive view as the Act was designed to prevent abuse between persons sharing intimate relationships.” Glater v. Fabianich, 252 Ill. App. 3d 372, 376 (Ill. App. Ct. 1993)
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act can send people to jail. Therefore, the statute cannot be loosey goosey.
“By well settled principles of law, a criminal or penal statute is to be strictly construed in favor of an accused, and nothing is to be taken by intendment or implication against him beyond the obvious or literal meaning of such statutes.” The People v. Eagle Food Centers Inc., 31 Ill. 2d 535, 539 (Ill. 1964)
The one Illinois case to define dating for the purposes of obtaining an order of protection is 20 years old. This decision is before texting and before dating apps.
“Applying a strict construction to [the dating or engagement relationship language of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act], we believe that the obvious meaning and general understanding of a ‘dating relationship’ is a serious courtship. Furthermore, as stated in the Act, the ordinary social fraternization between two persons is excluded from the meaning of the phrase “dating relationship.” 750 ILCS 60/103(6) This also supports our resolution that the legislature intended that a “dating relationship” be a relationship that was more serious and intimate than casual.” Alison C. v. Westcott, 798 N.E.2d 813, 817 (Ill. App. Ct. 2003)
Numerous criminal cases also require a “dating relationship” as an element and have given us further advice as to what constitutes a dating relationship.
For “a dating relationship to be a serious courtship [the relationship] at least needs to be an established relationship with a significant romantic focus.” People v. Wallace, 2020 IL App (1st) 172388 (citations omitted)
Nowadays people call everything “dating.” In the last 20 years, people now date like they order a pizza: online with minimal personal contact. They share their most intimate details in advance of meeting…if they ever meet.
For example, a New Jersey Appellate court stated that “’[d]ating’ is a loose concept undoubtedly defined differently by members of different socio-economic groups and from one generation to the next.’” C.C. v. J.A.H., 463 N.J. Super. 419, 429-30 (App. Div. 2020)
That New Jersey Appellate court decided a dating relationship existed when “the parties never experienced a traditional, in-person ‘date.’” C.C. v. J.A.H., 463 N.J. Super. 419, 424 (App. Div. 2020)
Alison C. v. Westcott is still the law of the land in Illinois but an Illinois Rule 23 appellate case is leading us in New Jersey’s direction when it found that a “three month relationship in person and through messages and [their] reciprocal interest [in each other] constitutes a ‘serious courtship’ under the [Illinois Domestic Violence] Act.” Bujdoso v. Lenington, 2023 IL App (1st) 221236-U
Finally, in 2023 a new Illinois appeals case came out with more commentary about the difference between “dating” and a “dating relationship.”
“Young people routinely do not consider going on dates with someone to equate being in a relationship with them, no matter the time frame. The determinations of whether parties are in a dating relationship for purposes of the Domestic Violence Act will continue to be decided on a case-by-case basis as each case presents its own set of circumstances, and we will continue to interpret “dating relationship” not to include casual or potential relationships based on the precedent in this State.” McClellan v. Hull, 2023 IL App (1st) 220465
Hooking up is not dating for the purposes of establishing a dating relationship in Illinois. In People vs. Howard, the court found that “[w]hile defendant and the victim clearly had an established relationship, we do not find that their relationship had a romantic focus. Both defendant and the victim testified that they were not dating and defendant stated that he never bought the victim flowers. Defendant and the victim were not exclusive, and the relationship did not contain any sort of shared expectation of growth. Rather, defendant and the victim engaged in random sexual encounters which were physical in nature, not romantic.” People v. Howard, 361 Ill. Dec. 63, 65 (Ill. App. Ct. 2012)
There must be a “degree of romantic reciprocity is present. If one party is merely the object of desire, then, even if a social relationship exists between the desired person and the desirous person, there is no dating relationship….To disqualify a relationship in which, for example, one party is seeking sex
and the other a chocolate-and-flowers romance is to take too narrow a view. Ill-matched couples
may nevertheless be couples.” People v. Allen, 2020 IL App (2d) 180473
Now we are really in the weeds as to whether an order of protection is even an option. Was it even a relationship? A significant courtship? Who liked who more? These questions all have to be answered. This really turns a domestic violence court into a reality TV show.