Agreeing on a plan of visitation rights for a noncustodial parent is a large part of any divorce or legal separation proceeding. Under Illinois law, a noncustodial parent is entitled to visitation rights. By making it an entitlement, a noncustodial parent can’t be kept from visiting his or her children without a hearing. A denial or adverse modification to the visitation plan can only come if the court determines that the visitation would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.
Who Can Visit
As noted above, the noncustodial parent is entitled to visitations. Illinois law allows other people to petition for visitation rights for children of divorce. Other family members recognized by Illinois law who may request visitation include grandparents, siblings, step-parents, and great-grandparents. However, unlike parents, these other family members aren’t entitled to visit, they can only request the court to grant them visitation.
What Constitutes a Visit
Primarily, Illinois law defines a “visitation” as an in-person meeting between parent and child. However, it also allows visitations by electronic communication under certain circumstances.
Creating the Visitation Plan
Illinois courts don’t have a standard visitation plan they use to set up a visitation plan for a couple. They look at each situation and its specific circumstances to determine what constitutes a reasonable visitation plan for that family. The courts consider the age of the children, the children’s schedule, and the proximity of the noncustodial parent to the children.
Modifying the Visitation Plan
As a matter of public policy, most states and courts want to protect the relationship between the noncustodial parent and his or her children. Therefore, it can be difficult to modify a visitation plan in a way that limits a noncustodial parent’s access. The standard the court uses is what is in the best interests of the child. It doesn’t consider the behavior of the noncustodial parent outside the scope of how it might impact the child.
If the court finds that the noncustodial parent might present a danger to the child, the court will usually look for ways to put restrictions on visitations that will protect the child rather than deny visitation outright. Getting visitation denied entirely is exceedingly difficult.
Courts can order supervised visitation, require visitation transfers in public places, or prohibit overnight visits. They can also require visits occur either in the custodial parent’s home or outside the noncustodial parent’s home. These are just some of the remedies courts will use to allow visitation where a parent may present a danger without having to deny visitation. A noncustodial parent can be denied a specific visit if he or she is under the influence.
Interfering with Visitation Plans
As the noncustodial parent is entitled to visitation, the custodial parent can’t interfere with the visitation plan. He or she is obligated to make the children available for visitation according to the court-ordered plan. If the custodial parent denies visitation, the noncustodial parent can turn to the court to enforce the visitation plan.
If the custodial parent denies visitations and takes other measures to separate the noncustodial parent from the child, such as changing the child’s last name, the court can consider this when re-assessing the visitation plan.