Can You Deny Visitation to the Noncustodial Parent?

Can You Deny Visitation to the Noncustodial Parent?

When issues arise after a parenting plan is in place, clients frequently ask, “Can you deny visitation to the noncustodial parent?” While you cannot independently deny visitation between your child and the noncustodial parent except in an emergency situation that endangers the child, you may be able to file a motion to modify the court order under some circumstances. If the court determines that visitation would seriously endanger your child’s physical, mental, or emotional health, the noncustodial parent’s parenting time rights may be restricted. Even in extreme cases, however, Illinois courts rarely deny parenting time entirely.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

When a married couple gets divorced, one of the issues to be decided upon is the care of any children of the divorcing parents. A parenting plan that addresses the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities is agreed upon by the divorcing parties or made by way of a court order. 

Illinois law dictates that the child’s best interests are of paramount importance in matters relating to the child. The courts generally assume that it is in the child’s best interests to have a close relationship with both parents. As a result, shared custody arrangements are common. In many cases, however, one parent will have primary residential custody of a child. This parent is known as the custodial parent. In these cases, the child lives primarily with the custodial parent, and he or she will have regular time with the noncustodial parent.

While the structure of this visitation will vary depending on each situation, Illinois law provides that the noncustodial parent should be entitled to at least one night per week, every other weekend, and extended time during summer with the child. 

When Can You Deny Visitation to the Non-Custodial Parent?

In Illinois, you can generally only deny visitation to the other parent if there is an emergency situation, and preventing the visit is necessary to protect the child. If you have evidence of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or the other parent’s drug or alcohol addiction is endangering your child, your lawyer may recommend that you withhold visitation and take legal action immediately.

Unless allowing the visit would put your child in substantial danger, however, consulting with a Chicago child custody attorney and bringing the matter before the Court is going to be a better option than denying parenting time on your own.

When can you renegotiate the visitation order? Although exceptions exist that allow concerned parents to revisit their visitation order right away, generally, you can file a petition to modify visitation once two years have passed from the date that the original order was made. Visitation is primarily for the children and not the parents. To modify the existing parenting time order, you will need to show the court that doing so is in the best interests of the child.

A judge will consider whether there has been a significant change in circumstances that warrants the modification. Examples include a change in the parent’s work schedule, the relocation of a parent, a parent who refuses to follow the schedule, or one who uses visitation to abuse the other parent.

What if Your Child Refuses to Visit the Other Parent?

A situation may arise where the child refuses to visit the noncustodial parent. While there is no set rule for how parents should deal with such a situation, whether the child can refuse visitation likely depends on the age of that child and the reasons for the refusal. For example, if a child is young, or even a toddler, he or she may not fully understand the situation. In such cases, the parent has the responsibility to encourage visits between the other parent and the child. Children at a young age have limited autonomy, and the custodial parent may face legal consequences for not enforcing the visits.

As children become older, they develop more autonomy and are more able to assert their decisions. In this situation, it may become more difficult to enforce visitation with an unwilling teenager. While this is not sufficient for a custodial parent to deny visitation to the noncustodial parent, it can be given weight in modifying the visitation order. If such a circumstance arises, the custodial parent should still attempt to convince the child to visit the other parent and petition the court to modify the visitation schedule.

When Will a Court Restrict a Parent’s Visitation Rights?

While the parenting time rights of a noncustodial parent must be protected, a court also has an obligation to protect the child from harm. Because of this, a court may restrict, deny, or order supervised visitation in some situations. A court may do this after a hearing, if you and your family law attorney present evidence that the visitation poses danger to the emotional, mental, physical, or moral health of the child.

Where a danger during visitation has been identified, the court may restrict visitation, but will usually do so in a specific way to address the danger identified. For example, depending on the danger identified, a court may prohibit overnight visits, ensure that visitation takes place in the custodial parents’ home, require visitation to be exercised away from the noncustodial parents’ home, or require third party supervision for visits.

What Are the Penalties for Visitation Interference

When a parent interferes with custody or visitation rights of another parent, he or she may face civil and criminal consequences.

In Illinois, depriving the other parent of visitation time is a criminal offense. If convicted, you could face jail time and substantial fines. If there is an existing court order, you may be charged with contempt of court for failing to comply with a visitation order.

Civil remedies are pursued through the family courts. A court may make an order it deems necessary, such as for makeup visitation time, requiring either the parents to attend parenting classes and/or counselling, or even adjusting the offending parent’s time with the child.

Working with a child custody attorney to determine whether you can deny visitation to the noncustodial parent may help you avoid these and other potential consequences.

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