An important reform has been enacted due to an unfortunate set of circumstances. On Tuesday August 21st, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 3823 which increases the punishment for people who abuse visitation rights of non-custodial parents. It is a very serious problem which is illustrated in the regrettable case of Steven Watkins.
On November 25th, 2008, Watkins went to the home of the Skinner family in Ashland, Illinois. He was picking up his child, Sidney, from his ex-wife’s house when things became ugly. This visitation was court-ordered but unfortunately short-lived for Watkins. Shirley Skinner, Sidney’s grandmother, was charged with shooting Watkins in the back of the head. She received 55 years in prison when she was convicted for the murder.
The visitation abuse did not start there. According to Steven’s mother Penny Watkins, “He (Steven) had several times ran up against opposition from the mother of the child. She (Sidney) was sick, she didn’t feel good, she had wet her pants – several different excuses. Steven would go to the local police. … (They said), ‘we’ll go with you, but if the mother refuses to give you the child, that’s all we can do.’” Steven Watkins’ parents also received visitation rights of Sidney after the passing of their son, which they were not able to exercise, since Steven’s ex-wife moved the child out of state.
The bill is called the “Steven Watkins Memorial Bill” and allows for more aggressive punishments for those who stop parents from seeing their children. Now visitation interference is penalized to the same degree that child support violations are; suspension of driver’s and professional licenses, monetary fines, and jail time. If you are considering going through a divorce or need to revise any aspects of your current custody, child support, or other modifications, please contact an experienced family law attorney in Schaumburg today.
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