Any situation involving unmarried or divorced parents can certainly be difficult. Cases in which the relationship between the parents is contentious and bitter are even more challenging. Regardless of the comfort level between the adults, however, every child deserves a relationship with both parents. Under Illinois law, visitation is one of the means by which a parent may seek to foster such a relationship.
Joint Custody or Sole Custody
In a post-divorce or unmarried parent situation, the court may elect to grant joint custody to both parents, based on an arrangement for shared parenting responsibilities and decision-making. However, such an agreement is not always possible or in the best interest of the child. When it is not, the court will grant custody solely to one parent, leaving that parent responsible for the daily decisions related to raising the child. The law, in such cases, expressly recognizes the right of the non-custodial parents to “reasonable visitation,” based on the assumption that parental involvement is nearly always in the child’s best interest.
A non-custodial parent is not required to file a petition or paperwork to exercise his or her visitation rights. Instead, many custody agreements may include a schedule or arrangement regarding visitation with which both parents are expected to comply, as reasonably as possible. While many parents are able to maintain flexible and cooperative visitation arrangements, parents in more difficult relationships should avoid altering or dictating visitation terms without the knowledge or consent of the court.
For example, a custodial parent may get angry with the other parent over issues that are not related to the health or well-being of the child. While he or she may be tempted to refuse the other parent access to the child for a time, doing so in violation of a visitation agreement, may result in action by the court.
Serious Danger to the Child
A parent may, however, seek the assistance of the court when there is reasonable fear of serious child endangerment. Endangerment is not limited to physical concerns, but also to mental, emotional, or moral health as well. While the most extreme cases could result in the termination of a non-custodial parent’s visitation rights, it is much more likely that the court would consider limiting visitation first. Common limitations or restrictions include:
- Prohibiting overnight visits;
- Requiring visits to take place in certain locations or away from certain locations;
- Requiring supervision of visits by a third party or by the custodial parent;
- Prohibiting visits while the parent is under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and/or
- Requiring transitions to take place in a public setting or with the help of a third party.
Protecting Your Visitation Rights
A non-custodial parent’s rights to visitation with his or her children are among the most protected legal rights of any under Illinois law. They cannot be terminated without direct action from the court supported by appropriate justification. Parental rights of the non-custodial parent even remain intact if the custodial parent remarries.
If your child’s other parent is restricting access to your child, a qualified child custody lawyer attorney can help. Contact an experienced Oakbrook family law attorney today to protect your rights and restore the relationship you and your child deserve.