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$5 fee for Illinois child custody exchanges upheld in court

As many parents know, co-parenting can be a difficult process. It's no easy splitting time with a child; it's much harder, however when one has a strained relationship with the other parent.

Unfortunately, divorce has a reputation for strained relationships. Often, couples enter the divorce process feeling angry and resentful towards the other spouse. By the time the divorce process is completed, spouses sometimes feel emotionally raw and unwilling to communicate with the former spouse any longer.

For co-parents, however, this is not an option. The parental relationship persists forever, even after the spousal relationship has ended. Even in these difficult, acrimonious relationships, parents have a responsibility to work together to raise their child.

These difficult relationships led to the rise of child custody exchanges in Illinois. Child custody exchanges are buildings managed by the government that act as safe, neutral places that co-parents can use to exchange custody of their children without ever seeing one another. Exchanging custody is a key part of honoring the divorce agreement's visitation schedule.

These places are staffed by guards and counselors, and generally offer a good place for parents to drop off or pick up a child with a minimum of friction. The centers are paid for through a $5 fee that is assessed when a couple files for divorce.

Recently, the constitutionality of this fee was challenged in court by an Illinois couple who claimed the fee was a "general welfare program" and thus a tax. The couple wanted to begin a class-action lawsuit to return the fees to the couples who paid them.

However, both the trial court and an appellate court ruled against the plaintiffs in this case. The appellate court noted that the fees go only towards child custody exchanges and benefit the court by preventing the litigation that results from acrimonious face-to-face encounters between parents.

The Illinois couple has promised to appeal the court's decision.


Source: 
BND.com, "Judges rule in favor of $5 fee for child custody exchange centers" Elizabeth Donald, Nov. 19, 2013

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