When you are going through a child custody dispute in Illinois it is important for you to have all the information you can regarding custody laws and parental rights. Understanding the different types of child custody can help you and your ex-spouse reach an agreement on custody that is best for the physical and emotional health of your child. Having unmarried parents that work together to create a parenting plan can help give your child stability through an inherently difficult time, and can help you and your ex-spouse avoid arguments on child custody once you have everything agreed on and in writing.
If you are going through a divorce or have already gone through one and want to create or change your visitation schedule, contact us at Tommalieh Law. Our knowledgeable family law attorneys will work to help you build a visitation list with your ex-spouse, or in the event that an agreement can't be reached, will help you build your case for family court. Contact us today at (708) 232-0017 to schedule a free case review and get answers to any additional questions you may have regarding your visitation rights.
Illinois Custody Overview
Illinois' law differentiates between two custody types, physical and legal. A parent with physical custody lives with the child, and a parent with legal custody holds decision-making responsibilities over major decisions, such as medical, religious, and educational options for the child. A judge will decide whether it is in the child's best interest for one parent to hold sole legal and physical custody, joint custody between both parents, or another option.
Visitation Rights in Illinois
The best interests of a child dictate that they spend time with their parents as long as it doesn't pose a risk to the child's safety, stability, or well-being. Due to this, the noncustodial parent should expect to have a reasonable visitation schedule with their children. Each family's unique situation will determine what is considered reasonable.
In most cases, a non-custodial parent is entitled to at least the minimum visitation schedule of time with their child, which includes one night per week, overnights every other weekend, and an extended summer visit. This is just an example of a simple allocation of parenting time, if you and your ex-spouse can create a better parenting schedule that works for both of you, then by all means do so. If your divorce has a high level of conflict and you cannot get a reasonable visitation schedule determined, you will receive a court-ordered visitation schedule that awards parenting time in a way the courts decide is most reasonable.
If a parent shows they want to make a change in the best interests of their child, Illinois family courts can make a change to the visitation schedule. A non-custodial parent who is moving might need less frequent visits, but longer visit time, for example.
When Will Visitation Rights be Restricted in Illinois?
Courts assume by default that a healthy and close relationship with both parents is the most important factor in the child's emotional development. The law in Illinois states that a court may restrict a non-custodial parent's rights to see their child only if the court finds that the child's physical health, mental and moral well-being, or emotional health is at risk.
Unless it's an emergency situation and necessary to protect the child, a custodial parent cannot unilaterally restrict the other's parenting time. Visitation privileges are not given for the benefit of the parents. It is viewed as being best for the child's welfare, which is the chief concern of the court. In cases with a history of abuse and physical violence, a judge may impose some restrictions to ensure the child's safety but will likely still allow limited visitations.
If the court decides to restrict visitations in its custody judgment, it will tailor the schedule to address the problem it has identified. For example, the court may decide to:
- Prohibit overnight visits
- Require that visits take place in the custodial parent's home, or outside the home of the noncustodial parent
- Establish third party supervision for visitations
Can a Child Deny Visitation?
There is no rule that establishes a minimum age for children to refuse visitation. While a minor child won't be sanctioned by the court for denial of visitation, the other parent may find themselves facing consequences. Each parent carries the responsibility of encouraging and facilitating visitation times between the child and the other parent.
The child's wishes will not be the deciding factor in your case, although older children may express a preference in a custody case. A court will only cut off a parent's access to their children in the most extreme cases, but an older child's preference when it comes to custody will be given significant weight.
Mental illness or substance abuse alone isn't enough to limit a parent's access to their child except in extreme situations. In most cases, the best interests of the child are served by preserving the time they spend with their parents.
Do Relatives Have Rights to Visitation in Illinois?
There is no legal right for grandparents to visit with their children. A grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling can file a request for a visitation order if they feel they have been denied reasonable access to their children. They can make this request if:
- The child's parents are not currently living together
- One of the parents has been deceased or missing for over 3 months
If the court decides that it is in the best interests of the child, it will issue a visitation order. Other relatives have no visitation rights even if the child has lived with them previously. This includes aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
What if the Custodial Parent is Preventing Visits?
An automatic change of custody won't happen because of a parent's denial of visits. Unless there is a material change in circumstances, a judge won't adjust a custody award. However, a court may intervene and draft a new custody arrangement if one parent keeps denying access to the other parent and prevents the child from being in close contact with the other parent. These sorts of frequent and recurring visitation issues can have a significant impact on the outcome of a custody battle.
A judge looks at the willingness of the parents to nurture a relationship between the child and the other parent when determining a child's best interests. For example, if a mother keeps preventing visits and communication with the other parent, she could lose sole custody of her child.
Related: How to Appeal a Child Custody Order
Visitation Rights and Child Support
Child support and access to the child are separate things, and if a parent can't or won't pay court-ordered child support they still have the right to visit the child. Child support is for the child's benefit not that of the other parent. The court will assume that the child will be better off with regular contact from both parents barring evidence to the contrary and so avoidance of child support is not a valid reason to limit visitation from the non-custodial parent
Hire An Experienced Family Law Attorney
Developing a parenting plan is best for planning daily schedules and can help with travel plans and transportation arrangements when visitation terms come around. To protect your visitation rights and maybe secure some additional visitation time, you will want to know the ins and outs of child custody law and visitation laws in Illinois.
At Tommalieh Law our child custody attorneys deal with a wide range of other family law issues. Our knowledgeable team can provide answers to questions you have about your visitation rights, and we will have you prepared in the event that your case ends up in front of a family law judge. Call (708) 232-0017 today or schedule an appointment online for a free case review and see what we can do to help you!