The Changing Notion of Parental Visitation
A number of posts on this blog over the last few months have discussed some of the family law changes that took effect in Illinois this week. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was recently amended to update the state’s approach to divorce, child custody, and parental relocation. Included in the changes to the child custody statutes is a new way of thinking about parental visitation and the rights of a parent to have access to his or her child.
Change in Language
Many of the statutory changes are based on the power of the words being used and the often intangible effect of language. For many years, a parent who was not granted legal custody was known under the law as a non-custodial parent, a phrase that resonates a negative connotation. To make matters worse, a non-custodial parent was presumed to have only "reasonable rights of visitation" with their child. In effect, the law considered a parent’s time with his or her child to be a temporary visit, not terribly different from spending a day with an uncle or grandparent.
Going forward, any parent, regardless of his or her assigned decision-making responsibilities, is entitled to reasonable parenting time with the child. The new law also defines parenting time as “the time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child.” The only situation in which a parent would not be allowed parenting time is if that parent's time with the child would present a present a danger or impairment to the child.
Limitations to Parenting Time
The law and the courts recognize the importance of a parent-child relationship. Only the most extreme cases will result in a complete denial of parenting time rights. A court is much more likely to place restrictions or limitations on parenting time to mitigate the danger to the child while still maintaining the relationship. To protect the child, the court may require parenting time to take place under supervision of a third party, the other parent, or the Department of Child and Family services. The court may also mandate that the parent refrain from using alcohol or drugs immediately prior to and during parenting time, and limit the presence of other people during parenting time.
Contact Our Office
If you have questions or concerns about the new law and how it might affect the time get to spend with your children, speak with an experienced Kane County family law attorney. We will review your case, help you understand your options, and work closely with you in protecting your parental rights. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free consultation today.