Visitation – Parenting Time
Visitation is more commonly referred to as “parenting time”. Illinois courts now prefer to use the term “parenting time” rather than the term “visitation” or “access.” Such terms are generally interchangeable.
There is a common misconception that when one parent is awarded the sole custody of a child, the non-custodial parent’s relationship with that child will inevitably be compromised. This is not correct. With appropriately drafted parenting time and visitation agreements, relationships between non-custodial parents and their children can be strengthened, preserved, and secured. The key to such an arrangement depends on the lawyer’s ability to draft an agreement that will effectively consider and address the needs of the child, the parents and the family as a whole. The Law Offices of John A. Conniff works closely with clients in drafting any visitation schedule with a focus on maximizing involvement in your child’s life.
The issue of visitation and parenting time is governed by Section 607 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act in the State of Illinois. The statute provides that non-custodial parents have equal rights to reasonable visitation and parenting time as the custodial parent with the minor child. It is important to understand this statute provides that parenting time is a right, not a privilege. Non-custodial parents cannot be denied or deprived of visitation or parenting time unless a court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.
There is no standard visitation schedule utilized by courts in Illinois. The law provides for the “maximum involvement…of both parents…in the best interest of the child.”
Visitation or parenting time schedules are most often determined by the unique needs and practical considerations of each family involved. These considerations may include, but not be limited to:
- The distance between the homes of the custodial and non-custodial parents,
- The arrangements for transportation,
- The parents’ respective work schedules, and
- The child’s academic and extra-curricular schedules.
Additionally, it is important to know that a non-custodial parent’s visitation rights and parenting time are in no way connected to the payment of child support. They are two completely separate and distinct legal issues. For example, a non-custodial parent cannot be denied or restricted visitation or parenting time based on the non-payment of child support. Simply stated, if a parent attempts to withhold visitation because the other parent is delinquent in child support payments, such a denial of visitation or parenting time constitutes “unlawful visitation interference.”
Section 607 of the IMDA also grants reasonable visitation privileges to siblings, grand-parents and even great grand-parents of any minor child if the court determines that it is in the best interests and welfare of the child. As such, a court may issue any necessary orders to enforce such visitation privileges.