A custody hearing will be held in McHenry County later this week in a case involving an 11-year-old boy, his father's family and his long-absent mother and her family. The mother was absent because she was in prison for attacking her husband (the boy's father) with a sledgehammer in 2001. Released in 2009, she has not sought visitation or custody rights. The issue came up only because the father, whose permanent injuries did not keep him from caring for the child, passed away a couple of weeks ago.
When the boy's father died, representatives of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services placed the boy in the temporary custody of his mother's cousin. The placement raised red flags for the father's family. They are now concerned that the boy's mother will get permanent custody when they claim they are the only family the boy has ever known.
The father's family was confused that DCFS placed the boy with the mother's relatives, especially in light of the fact that neither she nor any of her family members have ever tried to visit her son. Following her release from prison, the mother moved to Wisconsin. Her parole discharge occurred in August.
The legal sticking point is that the mother never gave up her parental rights, and her visitation rights were left open for negotiation following her release from prison. (Reports did not indicate if the couple ever divorced.) Under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, if her parental rights had been revoked, DCFS would not have to reunite her with her son. The same would be true if her crime had been one of a number of crimes against children specified under the law. The third condition under which DCFS may cease to attempt to reunite the woman and her son is if a court finds that the arrangement would not be in the best interests of the minor child.
The 45 year old had told them he wanted the boy to stay with his family if something happened to him, but they have not been able to produce a will or documentation to support the claim.
Resource: Daily Herald "Custody Dispute Over Son of Sledgehammer Attacker" 10/28/10