It’s 3:30 p.m. on Friday and you are parked outside your child’s school eagerly waiting to see him emerge from the throngs of backpacks, buses, teachers and kids. As the minutes tick by and the crowd thins, your son is nowhere to be seen. Your concern grows quickly when he doesn’t answer his phone or reply to your half dozen texts sent in rapid succession. When a text pops up from your former spouse, your concern rapidly gives way to anger and disappointment. The text reads: “Forgot to tell you that Jake doesn’t want to come over tonight. He’s got practice and then getting pizza with his team-mates.” Does this situation sound familiar? Regardless of which parent you may identify with in the hypothetical above, you should be aware of your parenting time rights and responsibilities when it comes to the allocation of parenting time in Illinois.
Parents have a duty to comply with the terms of their parenting plan, allocation judgment, or any court order that provides a parenting time schedule. Parents who willfully fail to comply may face steep consequences, both civil and criminal in nature.
If your child’s other parent interferes with your parenting time, you can petition the court to get compliance pursuant to Section 607.5 of the Illinois Marriage & Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”). Section 607.5 is titled “Abuse of allocated parenting time” and requires “expediated procedure” for the enforcement of parenting time. Section 607.5(c) outlines the possible remedies available to a court for abuse of parenting time. Those remedies include:
When the court finds that there was unjustified, non-compliance with allocated parenting time it may require the non-complying parent to pay the other parent’s attorney’s fees and related expenses. It cuts both ways though, if the court fails to find non-compliance, it may require the complaining parent to pay the attorney’s fees and related costs to the responding parent. This measure is meant to weed out frivolous or vexatious claims of parenting time abuse.
The court’s authority to impose sanctions on a non-complying parent doesn’t end there. The court may also:
Finally, when a court makes a finding of contempt for abuse of allocated parenting time, it is required to notify the local sheriff’s office thereby putting the police on notice of past violations of abuse should they have to respond to future allegations.
Anytime a child is not made available to a parent during the parent’s allocated parenting time, you should ask if there is a compelling reason why parent and child should miss time together. Compelling reasons may include: an injury or illness of the child or parent, a special occasion that doesn’t happen with regularity like a wedding or funeral, a necessary medical appointment, or another activity or obligation that is outside the control of the parent and is unusual or unexpected. There may be more valid reasons, but the point is that the list of possible reasons is relatively small.
The hypothetical in the introduction above was carefully chosen to highlight the other side of the issue: what if your child really doesn’t want to see their other parent? Can you make excuses for them or just simply “cancel” parenting time until they feel up to it? The answer is a solid no. Visitation refusal, as it’s often labeled, is not uncommon. There are a variety of reasons your child may not want to see you or their other parent, some more benign than others. As a parent, we are obligated to make our children do a lot of activities they would prefer not to whether it’s going to school, doing homework, or brushing their teeth. We don’t let them stay up all night, eat ice cream for breakfast, or skip bathing for a week. Parents require their children to do things they don’t want to do every day. Spending time with a parent is no different. Children thrive when they have access to, and the love and support of, both parents.
On the other hand, it is possible your child has outgrown the parenting time schedule in place. A teenager may need or want more independence and have more obligations. If that is the case, you should work with your child’s other parent or petition the court to modify your parenting time schedule to something more appropriate for your child’s current age and maturity level. Without the consent of your child’s other parent or court approval, failing to abide by the terms of your allocation judgment can have serious consequences as discussed above.
There are times when “canceling” parenting time is absolutely necessary, such as when abuse or neglect is evident, and a child’s wellbeing is in jeopardy. In such cases, it’s critical to consult a knowledgeable and experienced child custody attorney to determine the best course of action to protect your child and yourself.
Whether you know need advice on modifying a custody arrangement that is no longer working for your child or you are missing out on court-ordered parenting time, don’t delay in contacting a skilled child custody lawyer who can help you enforce your custody arrangements. Wheaton child custody attorney Cameron H. Goodman may be able to help. Contact our offices today to schedule a child custody consultation.
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