Legal Question in Family Law in Illinois

I'd like to know what the law says about getting sole custody for my six children and if I can use photos, videos, and letters in court that I've collected against my husband to demonstrate that's he's an unfit parent.

I've been married to my husband for 15 years, and we have six young children together. My husband often has fits of rage. He's not equipped to handle a large family. He's been mentally abusive & emotionaly neglectful to all our children, and our 9 year old daughter has taken the brunt of it since she was 3. When she was three years old, I was pregnant with twins and our son was two years old at the time. Everyone was in the car, as we had just picked up our 3-year old daughter from daycare. My husband was buckling our daughter in when suddenly her very hard across the face and she started crying hysterically. I didn't even know what happened. All I heard was the sound, which is unforgettable and unforgivable. I turned around and saw his huge hand print on her face and her ear was beat red. He's 300 lbs too. His hand print lasted for hours after that and her ear was red for hours too. I was devastated, trying to console her, and told her that I was going to call the police. He scream at me to get my as- in the car and to not make a scene in the parking lot. I regret listening to him and not going straight to the police that day, because since then (and she's 9 years old) it's been totally acceptable to him to just hit her if she misbehaves despite my yelling/screaming at him to stop and defending her.

After one of our sons started showing signs of autism a few years back (and I've had him in numerous therapies since then), I'm constantly researching autism and am 99.9% sure that my husband is autistic too (along with some other severe mental condition). He's incapable of caring about other's emtotions, feelings, or needs. He meltdowns easily with stress, no communication skills, cannot relate to anyone, and has no theory of mind, etc. Everyone in this family should think like he does, according to him, everyone should have similar needs, etc. He's always been an emotionally neglectful husband with poor communication skills and zero eye contact, always made my feelings, thoughts, and plans unimportant in his life. I thought I could fill that void with a large family and that he could just focus on his career. Well it didn't work that way. The more children we had, the more he fell apart and couldn't handle the stress. Power & control is his focus now with no regard to anyone's emotions, feelings or needs. He doesn't feel remorse, he's conscienceless, and there's no accountability. He also ruins every holiday and birthday. Rarely when we go places as a family (I always take the kids places now by myself because it's much more pleasant for them, as my husband yells and is negative the whole time). A few times when we had outings planned like going to the zoo or going to the museum, he of course had a melt down before we even went because he couldn't even handle helping get the kids ready and in the car without screaming. He and my daughter got into it about something, and he yelled out to leave "that God Dam- disobedient kid" at grandma's because he's not going if she is. He's suggested quite a few times to exclude her like that. That's abuse by neglect in my opinion.

I guess you could consider our neighborhood slightly upper middle class. We're barely getting by on his income. I'm home with my six kids full-time for the past five years and have put my career on hold to raise them. We're known as the crazy neighbors in the community because our neighbors hear my husband yelling & swearing at the kids outside during his episodes, and all our kids constantly have meltdowns in the yard, and I'm also sure that all the inside loud verbal fights between my husband and I project through the windows and throughout the neighborhood during the summer time.

Our oldest daughter, 9 years old (the one he slapped when she was 3) has severe emotional problems and she's impulsive and doesn't respect boundaries. I've had her see two psychologists to try to help her but it didn't. She shows aggression with her dad but it's really her attempts at getting his attention, because the normal way hasn't worked. Since she was a toddler, he hasn't given her the time of day. When she does inappropriate things like hitting him, etc. (and she tends to act out most when he's melting down too), instead of being a decent father and handling it the right way (i.e, talking it through with her and explaining that she's not allowed to hit, etc. giving her time alone in her room to think about it, etc),, he retaliates like a child. If she kicks him, he kicks her back (he's over 300 lbs). If she throws something at him, he'll throw it back at her twice. At one point, she was grabbing a broom to hit him, and he'd grab a mop to retaliate. If she slaps him, he'll slap her back. He's in his 40s too! You'd think he'd act like a parent and handle it the right way but he's been a very poor example from the start.

The other day, he yelled at the kids for being in the frosting jar. He can't come in and tell them to stop eating the frosting in a respectful tone like a normal dad, and explain that it's very unhealthy for them. Instead he yells and "orders" them to stop. I guess they continued eating the frosting when he walked away. He came back and yelled and cursed at them even louder (I heard this all from the other room when I was with the other kids). So, our daughter reacted to her dad's yelling by wiping frosting on him. My 300 lb crazy husband then took a handful of frosting, cornered her, and wiped it all over her new vacation shirt that she loved. She was so upset and was crying. All I heard from the bedroom was, "NO, dad, please don't, NO please dad, DON'T!" and when I ran down the hallway to stop whatever he was doing, I saw him with a handful of frosting that he had just wiped all over her. Our other kids witnessed this too. He's crazy. He's never "had his family's back", never cared about anyone's feelings but his own, he's been so uninvolved with all our kids. He only does things (homework, attends extracurricular functions, etc.) because I ask him to help out when I can't be in two places at one time. Because he works, does the laundry, and loads the dishwasher, he thinks that he's going above and beyond the call of duty and that he's entitled to respect and power because he's "the dad". He believes that wives should be subservient to their husbands and he despises that I'm not. Ironically, his mom was the boss (and still is) of their entire family. My husband never gave the kids or me anything to admire or respect about him. All he's given us is his fits of rage.

My husband obviously has mental & anger problems and after many years of begging him to go to a psychiatrist, he finally started seeing one last January after I gave him an ultimatum. Ultimatums hadn't worked prior to that, but I was closest as I ever was back then to taking the kids and leaving him. He was prescribed hefty anti-anxiety drugs (Klonopin & Ativan). He doesn't take them now and says he doesn't need to go to a psychiatrist. He says he wouldn't have to yell, scream, swear, and man handle if the kids just listened to him. He blames everyone else for his own actions. He has no communication skills himself and never makes eye contact with the kids and never makes them feel important when they're trying to tell him something. He doesn't talk about feelings. He's never had a normal fatherly moment with them. He refuses therapy too. The few psychiatrist visits that he's attended have been very secretive. In fact, his family that he grew up with and his work are totally separate lives too...he's kept everything a big secret during our entire marriage. I always thought that was strange. He's very factual only. So, I don't understand how he expects the kids to listen to him when he doesn't even listen to them.

He's done some pretty inappropriate forms of punishment like smashing my daughter's games on the floor, taking & hiding her artwork off her bedroom wall, taking away birthday presents that she just got and her piggy bank. I can't tell you how many times he's taken away her piggy bank as a punishment. So, when I want her to do a household chore for an allowance, she's not motivated by money at all. My husband has pulled her down the hallway to her room by her pony tail, turning around her door knob and locking her in her room (he's done this to the other kids too), etc. He's threatened to break our son's t-ball trophy too when he didn't go to bed. When the kids were shaking a full unopened pop can one time, and when my husband told them to stop and they didn't stop, he violently grabbed it out of their hands and opened the pop in our daughter's face. Obviously, it exploded in her face. He's extremely impulsive and doesn't think. He feels perfectly justified for doing what he does. About a quarter of the time these things happen when I'm gone running errands on the weekends (and I always have some of the kids with me), and I come home and hear about it. When I am home (most of the time) I always fight back for the kids to protect them, but it always causes a huge scene that the kids witness. According to my husband, I'm undermining him and what the kids really need is to get their a-- beaten. He says that I should support him in discipline and order the kids to listen to their father. He's crazy. He's not a father, he's an abuser and he constantly falls part at the seams.

My daughter has so much aggression toward him not and he says that he's washed his hands of her. He says that we deserve each other. He's called our 9-year old daughter and me the worse profanities. He's called her an as-hole last Christmas and piece of sh*t on her birthday last year after she did something wrong. Of course I stepped in to defend her, but he does it again and again, that same evening or the next day, etc. Every opportunity he gets, he bad mouths me to the kids too (e.g, if your mother would only chip in and do the laundry around here! Or, when I try to get away from his screaming, I'll walk away and go in my bedroom and he'll tell the kids that I'm "bunkerizing" myself and am locking them out...when in reality, I'm walking away from him to avoid an argument). When one of our sons asks him for milk, and my husband doesn't give it to him if he's busy, our son will keep asking & asking him for a cup of milk. My husband tells our son, "Stop harassing me, kid!!!!! Get the hel- out of here! You'll get your milk when I'm ready and only when I'm ready!!!!" A normal man just doesn't call it "harassment" when a child asks for milk.

My husband doesn't have a sound mind and obviously has mental problems. There has been physical altercations between my husband and me too...mostly I get upset when he's so inappropriate verbally with the kids or leaves a hand print on them, and then I'll scream at him and slap him on the arm or something, and then he'll do it back to me...and the kids are always watching and listening.

Last night, my husband was trying to watch a football game. My daughter tried to turn the channel. My husband screamed and turned the channel back to the game. My daughter tried to throw a large plastic toy at him, and my 300 lb husband slapped her on the back leaving his hand print. He did this last week too. He's spanked the kids on their bare butts, legs, arms, etc. and whether it's through clothes or not, he always does it hard enough to leave a lasting hand print. I think that's abuse, not discipline It's a horrible situation. I need to get my kids and me out of this hell. He's had me under chronic stress that it's effected me physically (I have chronic migraines and arthritis now) and psychologically (I'm finding myself screaming at the kids more too and I never used to be that way). I've collected mounds and mounds of pictures and videos to support my case about him screaming & swearing, his handprints on the kids, etc. to use on the day that I file divorce. Well, he hacked into my computer and all my other hard drives that I failed to hid, and he deleted years of data...I mean everything. He's says that I was malicious for video taping him and that I should have been helping him discipline the kids. He must be talking to someone about legal advice too, because one day during an argument he advised me that videos & photos weren't permissible in court anyway. Is that true?

When I threaten divorce, he also says that it's the law that he'll automatically get joint custody. I tell him there's no way in the world that I'd let a crazy man live with and raise my kids half the time when I'm not there. He must be getting advice from someone at work because in the midst of any argument lately, he told me that he will quit his night teaching job too because what amount I'd be awarded all depends on his income, and he can't give me what he doesn't have. He must be getting information from someone. THe radio station he listens to always advertises about an attorney for "dad's rights"...maybe he called them. He also said that I'd end up living in a cockroach infested apartment in a bad neighborhood, and that we'd be splitting the kids right down the middle because it's the law.

Currently, in public and sometimes even in our own neighborhood, the day after one of his fits of rage, he attempts to portray the good dad image by taking the kids out for a tractor ride (minus our daughter) or he'll throw the ball back & forth with our older son. I see my husband looking around in the neighbors' direction to make sure they're watching because it's a very rare moment when he does normal things like that with the kids and he wants people to see. In previous years, I BEGGED my husband to go outside and spend time with the kids...just like I always do and have done. He always refused or would take them out reluctantly and yell at them the whole time. It's not normal for him to resent me merely for asking him to take the kids outside, as he viewed that as me giving him orders. So, I believe he's getting advice from someone about divorce, custody, etc. I bet someone coached him to look better in the neighborhood (like the tractor rides, etc.), because he wouldn't do this on his own.

I have called 911 two years ago on him. It was a holiday weekend when he tried to discipline my daughter by yanking her arm and he was trying to pull her down to her room for a time-out. He was full of rage all day that particular day, we were fighting about him spoiling Thanksgiving, and all the kids were acting out to cope with it. So, when he yanked her arm, he left a 6" blood claw mark down her arm. The cops that showed up were on his side. I was trying to explain what happened, and one cop totally cut me off and said that he'd take me to jail if I didn't shut my mouth and that I should only talk when asked. I referred to our daughter as "my" daughter a few times when the cops were there. That one cope was more focused on my pronouns than protecting my children from a crazy person. The cop said that I better get some respect because their "his" kids too. They ruled by daughter's scratch as accidental. My husband laughed and laughed about that. The next day DCFS called while I was in the shower, and my husband told them that the whole situation was blown out of proportion and there was nothing further from them. Ever since then, I never called the cops on him again for anything because the 911 call was the biggest joke. My husband always laughs and says that if I dare call 911 again on him that they'd drag me to jail because I'm wasting their resources.

When my husband has these fits of rage (and they can last days), he's threatened my daughter that when "mom's not home, she won't be there to protect her." He's also threatend, during one of his fits, that one of these days he's just going to have to kill me. He's also told my daughter several times that he's going to "f'ing kill her" when she threw something at him or kicked him, etc. He said that same thing to our autistic son, (he'd f'ing get killed) when he took a sip of water that my husband had packed up for an outing. He threatens the kids all the time. When he screams and ignores my daughter, she acts out with aggression toward him, she runs away from him, and he'll say, "You can run, but I'll find you eventually and I'll beat you until you can't sit down, kid!" When he's really mad, he refers to our kids as, "You God Dam- disobedient kids!" When he's frustrated (he's chronically frustrated), he refers to all of us as, "You people!' (e.g, "It's infuriating when you people don't leave my shi- alone!").

I just can't let my kids be in this situation anymore. My kids are all screamers and they melt down to cope. They've all seen the worst example, and have had no peace. They've had 100% motherly love & devotion but they haven't seen a loving partnership between a mom & dad. I shutter to think that my boys might think that abuse & disrespect toward girls & women is normal. And I shutter even worse to think who my daughter (who already has a very low self esteem and no respect for herself) will choose for a partner later in life. I worry when she gets a couple years older. I fear for my kid's future because of what they've been through. It's unhealthy for all of us to be around his chronic frustration and frequent rage episodes. I've been concerned to start the divorce process because of what he says about the law awarding him joint custody. Since he has the mind of a 5-year retaliating child, he will make sure to fight me tooth and nail about EVERYTHING in the divorce. I'm a loving, compassionate registered nurse who cares about people and my children are my life. He's a quiet, nerdy, book-smart engineer but he damaging behind closed doors.

By the way, he has a ton of family support on his side. I have elderly parents only who are tired and can't really help me in any way...financially or with childcare. Please advise.

Asked on 8/10/13, 12:28 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Sue Roberts-Kurpis, Esq. Law Office of Sue Roberts-Kurpis
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Find a domestic abuse legal clinic in your area, get yourself and your children into counseling and find a domestic abuse support group and an abused woman's shelter that will be able to take you and your children for a period of time. There is no presumption in favor of joint custody in Illinois and if the parties demonstrate that they cannot get along the court will not order joint custody. Find an attorney immediately.

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8/10/13, 1:40 pm

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