When parents divorce, child visitation and custody can be a major point of contention between them. While it’s best for divorcing parents to work together to come up with visitation arrangements that are convenient for both parents and in the best interests of their child, parents don’t always agree about the best way to do so. Disagreements can degenerate into major battles that are harmful to all parties involved.
To help prevent problems when making important decisions concerning child visitation and custody, it makes sense to have guidance from an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney. The seasoned Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe and Stec, Ltd. have extensive experience assisting families in developing child custody and visitation arrangements. 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.
When you choose us, you will find that our family lawyers are special. We will:
Custody and visitation issues are covered under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The Act allows reasonable visitation for the parent who does not have primary physical custody of the child, “unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.”
Attitudes toward parental custody and visitation are changing. In the past, the courts would 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. Instead of “custody,” the courts now refer to the decision-making issues for the child as the “allocation of parental responsibilities.” The new term for visitation is now “parenting time.”
One parent may still have most of the decision-making responsibilities, or these responsibilities may be split between the parents. As far as parenting time is concerned, children may spend most of their time with one parent, or they may split their time fairly evenly with both. Deciding how much time the children will spend with each parent and which parent will have decision-making authority for the major issues must be determined according to the individual child’s best interests.
Many divorced parents now share physical custody of their children, moving them between households on a regular basis, but many still have the arrangement where the child lives with one parent and the other parent has regular visitation rights. Depending on circumstances such as the children’s ages, the parents’ work schedules, and the distances between homes and schools, visitation options may include:
Assuming that it is in children’s best interests to have regular contact with both parents, Illinois courts restrict a noncustodial parent’s visitation rights only when finding that visitation would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health. The custodial parent must first prove that visitation with the noncustodial parent will endanger the child’s well-being.
Even if serious abuse is proven, the courts probably still will permit some visitation, but with supervision or restrictions, such as prohibiting overnight visits or visits while the parent is under the influence of mind-altering substances.
When parents can agree on an arrangement for parenting time and allocation of responsibilities and draw up a “Joint Parenting Agreement” on their own, it is almost always preferable to litigation. When the court accepts your Joint Parenting Agreement, it becomes the Joint Parenting Order and becomes legally binding, and both parents must follow it.
In developing a parenting time schedule, you should include:
You can put the schedules on a calendar and include it in your parenting agreement. If you and the other parent can’t agree on a visitation schedule, the court will make one for you.
If parents do not agree, the court will examine the facts of the case and use the “best interests of the child” standard in reaching its decision. Factors the courts will consider include:
When one parent wishes to move, it can create parenting time problems. Illinois law provides that a parent who has not been granted significant decision-making activities will be entitled to a reasonable parenting time schedule with the child, which can be difficult if one parent moves a distance away. Therefore, Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/600(g)) has specific distance limitations on how far a parent can move with a child, even within Illinois, without getting permission from the parent or a judge.
Parents who do not have the majority or equal parenting time may move wherever they want, but there are restrictions for parents who have the majority or equal parenting time with their children. These parents can move in the following situations:
The 25- or 50- mile limit is determined by the county you’re moving from, not the county you’re moving to. This can sometimes present problems — for example, if moving from a rural area to a congested city.
Even if parents who are moving do not need permission, they should always keep the non-residential parent notified of where the children are residing. If they are moving beyond the allowable distances, they must get permission to do so.
Unlike parents, grandparents and other relatives do not have a legal right to visitation. However, a grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling denied reasonable visitation may file a request for a visitation order from the courts if . . .
Other relatives, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins, do not have any legal right to visitation.
The court will issue a visitation order if it determines that visitation with close relatives is in the best interests of the child.
When you are dealing with child visitation issues, you are bound to have questions and concerns. These can best be answered in your free consultation, but to get you started, here are some answers to questions our clients often ask:
A custodial parent cannot decide unilaterally to restrict the other parent’s visitation rights unless it’s an emergency situation and necessary to protect the child. Even in cases of domestic violence or serious abuse, some visitation is likely to be allowed under supervision or other restrictions, such as requiring that visits be supervised by a third party, to ensure the child’s safety.
Visitation and child custody issues are complex and vital to your children’s well-being and adjustment. The facts and circumstances of every case are different, and situations of parents and children often change, so it makes sense to seek legal counsel to reach the best arrangement for your family. The skilled Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., represent and advise clients in all types of matters related to making and modifying parental plans; we can also help you with child custody, child custody removals and paternity issues.
Visit our firm’s child custody information center for valuable background information.
During trial four experts all testified against our client the Judge found it was in the best interest of the child that our client be awarded custody. We have successfully represented clients in numerous child custody cases.
We recently analyzed a case whereby the opposing side was seeking a substantial award of maintenance against our client. After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances and several hearings, our client’s obligation to pay maintenance was limited to two years at half of what his former spouse was seeking.
After our client voluntarily changed employment we were able to obtain a substantial reduction in child support payments. We have also stopped such reductions when representing clients receiving child support.