On November 25, 2008, Steven Watkins arrived at his ex-wife Jennifer’s family home in Ashland to pick up their daughter for a court-ordered visit. The couple was in the process of divorcing and was involved in a custody battle over the toddler. But Steven Watkins never got to have his visit. Within moments of arriving, the 32 year-old father of two was lying dead on the living room floor, with a bullet in his head. The only adults home at the time of the murder were Jennifer and her grandmother, Shirley Skinner. Skinner, 76, was eventually arrested, tried and found guilty of first-degree murder and is currently serving a 55-year prison sentence.
Steven’s murder and the subsequent court battle his parents have been fighting against Jennifer Watkins to see their granddaughter resulted in Senate Bill 3823, know as the “Steven Watkin’s Bill”. The bill was recently signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn. The new law gives courts the power to revoke the driver’s license, impose fines and even sentence jail time to anyone who interferes or denies visitation to a non-custodial parent without showing just cause.
Steven’s parents, Dale and Penny Watkins, were awarded visitation rights to their granddaughter but after just a few visits, Jennifer Watkins took the child and moved toFlorida. The Watkins have not seen their granddaughter since November 2010. Jennifer Watkins has blocked every court-ordered visit, including trying to have custodial jurisdiction changed to Florida (which was denied) and even spent time in jail for disobeying the visitation order.
Child custody and visitation can be one of the most emotionally difficult issues in a divorce. All too common, a custodial parent may try to hinder any relationship between a non-custodial and the children. If divorce and custody agreements appear to be in your family’s future, consult with an experienced Chicago-area divocre lawyer to protect your parental rights. Grandparents have rights to see their grandchildren too. If you’ve been denied from spending time with your grandchildren, a Chicago area family law attorney can help ensure that you are a part of your grandchild’s life.