Divorce is painful, emotional, and complex. It touches every part of your life, and if you have children, you will likely have to deal with the fallout for years. Once the marriage is dissolved, new problems can easily crop up. One such problem that lawmakers, family law attorneys, and divorced people have tackled with varying levels of success is child custody and visitation.
In Illinois, the involvement of both parents in the raising of the child is a matter of public policy written expressly into the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. To this end, both parents have the right (if not the duty) to participate as much as they can in the upbringing of their children. If either parent interferes with the visitation or custody order from the court, absent a good reason, they open themselves up to liability from the courts. The parent with whose rights have been interfered has options on how to correct the interference.
Criminal Court and the Crime of Unlawful Visitation or Parenting Time Interference
In Illinois, interfering with visitation rights is a crime. If one “detains or conceals a child with the intent to deprive another person of his or her rights to visitation, parenting time, or custody time,” she is subject to a petty offense with a fine. (The feminine pronoun is used here because, as of 2007, mothers made up 82.6 percent of the custodial parents in divorced couples. Men are subject to the crime as well, be they custodial parents or not.) If the parent is convicted more than two times for the crime, it becomes a Class A misdemeanor, with possible jail time. While this statute is a valuable tool to enforce visitation agreements, it severely limits the options for the parent pursuing the agreement’s enforcement. A better option may be the civil courts.
Civil Court and Enforcement of Visitation Agreements
If a parent wishes to enforce their visitation agreement after interference, he can file a petition with the family court. The judge will hold a hearing regarding the visitation agreement and its violation. The judge can then modify the agreement, order additional visitation time to make up for the time lost, or the nebulous “[o]ther appropriate relief deemed equitable.” If the judge feels that visitation is being unreasonably impeded, he can use the contempt power of the court to levy a fine against the interfering parent, suspend the parent’s driving privileges, or even imprison the parent for up to six months.
Contact a Family Law Attorney Today
A child is better off with two involved parents, and visitation is essential to ensuring parental involvement after divorce. If your visitation rights have been impeded, an experienced family law attorney can begin the proceedings to help you enforce your rights. Contact an Illinois family law attorney today.
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