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Family Violence Coordinating Councils, at both the state and local/circuit levels, provide a forum to improve the institutional, professional and community response to family violence including child abuse, domestic abuse, and elder abuse. Councils provide professional education and prevention; coordinate interventions and services for victims and perpetrators; and contribute to both the improvement of the legal system and the administration of justice.
In 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court adopted rules governing mediation in family law cases. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 905(b) mandates each judicial circuit to establish a mediation program for all dissolution of marriage and paternity cases involving issues of child custody or visitation. Rule 923(a)(3) mandates that if the parties to a case involving child custody or visitation issues have not reached an agreement regarding those issues at the time of the initial custody case management conference, the parties must attend mediation to resolve those issues prior to litigation. While most judges and attorneys agree that mediation is generally a good thing for most custody and visitation cases, there may be certain cases, such as cases that involve domestic violence, that may require special considerations during mediation or perhaps a waiver of mediation altogether.
The Domestic Violence Court Systems Project was designed to examine Illinois’ domestic violence courts. Site visits were conducted to gather information on how the courts were developed and how they operate and to identify effective procedures and practices for use across state domestic violence courts. Courts examined were in Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, Lake, LaSalle, Madison, Peoria, Sangamon, St. Clair, and Will counties, and in Cook County’s six municipal districts. A network of domestic violence court system personnel also was developed to facilitate information sharing.
The safe exchange of children affects many domains of the court, including domestic relations, parentage, child support, domestic violence, probate, mental health, and child protection. The Visitation Exchange Project was based on a fundamental understanding and respect for the needs and rights of children and parents to interact with each other in an appropriate and sensitive environment. Individual visitation exchange reports were compiled on visitation exchange sites in DuPage, Madison, McLean, Peoria, Rock Island, St. Clair, Will counties. A summary report also was completed comparing site services and policies, commonly accepted principles for safety, and court requirements for services. The report offered illustrations of emerging trends and the centers’ unique characteristics.