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Fees for Illinois neutral sites upheld in court

Shielding children from the effects of a messy divorce can be an important step in maintaining their well-being. Ex-spouses that are going through a difficult breakup will often try to find ways to prevent their children from witnessing arguments or other intense situations. If the parents are sharing custody of the children, one of the most stressful times can involve the exchanges that must occur in order for the children to transition between households.

Sometimes, parents will meet in a public place, such as a restaurant or retail store to exchange custody. In Illinois, there are also designated "neutral sites" that allow children to be cared for while waiting for a parent, allowing ex-spouses to avoid each other altogether. An example of a neutral site is the Madison County Kids' Corner of Wood River. A lawsuit recently filed regarding a fee that helps fund these neutral sites has recently gone to court for the second time.

The suit was first filed last March in St. Clair County. Two plaintiffs, a man and a woman, argued that the $5 fee that must be paid whenever a lawsuit is filed is unconstitutional. They claim that the $5 is a tax used to fund a welfare program. They sought a refund, as well as an injunction preventing Illinois counties from collecting the fees.

However, the trial court determined that the fee was constitutional. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, but the Fifth District Appellate Court in Madison County once again upheld the fees. The court noted that the money collected from the fees goes into a fund that helps reduce the burden on courts that arises when child custody exchanges get out of hand.

The fees that support neutral sites are permitted by a 2000 Illinois law. According to a report released by the Fifth District Appellate Court judge that presided over the case, the recent ruling will prevent Madison County from facing a class-action suit in the matter.

theintelligencer.com, "Court upholds site fees" Steve Horrell, Nov. 22, 2013

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