When a divorce ends with bitter feelings and intense emotions, one parent may try to punish the other parent by interfering with visitation. However, since the courts believe that maintaining a relationship with both parents is in the best interests of the child, interference with court-ordered visitation is considered a criminal offense in Illinois.
Anyone convicted of interfering with visitation will have a criminal conviction on their record that will negatively affect custody, visitation and family for years to come.
If you are facing such charges, or if your ex-spouse is interfering with your visitation rights with your child, you need an experienced attorney to help protect your rights.
The seasoned Illinois criminal and family law attorneys at Wolfe and Stec, Ltd., have extensive experience in both criminal and family law cases. We understand that these issues can be difficult for parents and children, so we focus on providing solid and compassionate legal services throughout the process.
We offer a free consultation to discuss your individual situation, so call our offices today or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.
For years, it was common for the courts to give one parent “custody” and the other parent “visitation.” On January 1, 2016, the revised Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act changed this vocabulary, and “Parenting Time” became the new term for visitation. Deciding how much time the children will spend with each parent and which parent will have decision-making authority for the major issues is determined according to the child’s best interests.
While in recent years it had become more common for divorced parents to share physical custody of their children, many still have the arrangement where the child lives with one parent and the other parent has regular visitation rights. The courts will restrict a noncustodial parent’s visitation rights only when finding that visitation would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.
It’s always best when parents can agree on an arrangement for parenting time and allocation of responsibilities and draw up a “Joint Parenting Agreement” on their own. However, in contentious divorces, the courts may come up with a “Joint Parenting Order” that sets out visitation schedules and becomes legally binding for both parents to follow.
Despite legal agreements and court orders, there are times when one parent interferes with the other’s visitation. A parent may try to restrict visitation, withhold letters, intercept phone calls, talk negatively about the other parent, or try to scare or convince the child not to want to see the other parent. A custodial parent may deliberately schedule appointments and activities to conflict with scheduled visitation, not bring the child to the agreed-upon meeting points, or pretend the child is ill or find other ways to withhold the child when the other parent wants to pick up the child.
A non-custodial parent may refuse to return the child at an agreed-upon time or place, or even abscond with and hide the child from the other parent.
Because Illinois courts recognize that it’s normally in the best interests of the child to have a relationship with both parents, the court may impose a duty on a parent to ensure that the child and the other parent have a relationship together.
If the custodial parent continues to interfere with visitation rights, the court may modify the custody and visitation arrangements, for example by:
However, the parent being interfered with must go to court to change or modify a visitation order or to enforce visitation rights.
Some actions of intentional interference that violate custody and visitation orders break both criminal and civil law. In addition to being in violation of a court order, Section 10-5.5 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/10-5.5) makes interference it a crime.
The law states that “[e]very person who, in violation of the visitation, parenting time, or custody time provisions of a court order relating to child custody, detains or conceals a child with the intent to deprive another person of his or her rights to visitation, parenting time, or custody time commits the offense of unlawful visitation or parenting time interference.”
The criminal consequences of intentional interference with visitation are serious. While the first two offenses are likely petty offenses, the third charge can result in a misdemeanor. A conviction can suspend your driver’s license and affect issues with your kids such as custody and visitation.
In some situations, a parent who does not return a child can be charged with kidnapping, and the police can get involved to recover the child.
Even a non-parent can be convicted of the crime of visitation interference. For instance, if a friend or relative of one parent does something to interfere with the other parent’s time with the child, that person could be convicted of visitation interference.
The seasoned and compassionate Illinois family and criminal law attorneys At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., understand the civil and criminal consequences of intentional interference with visitation. We represent both mothers and fathers and take a proactive approach to representing people facing criminal charges. We understand what you are going through and the long-term ramifications for the health and well-being of your children. We know the courts, the judges, and the system, and will fight aggressively for your rights and freedom.
We offer a free initial consultation to discuss the facts involved with your individual situation, so don’t delay. Contact us today online or by calling our offices.