Do I Lose Custody If I Miss Too Many Visitations?

Having parental responsibilities means making important decisions for a child, and spending time with them. Illinois law recognizes the importance of the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child. 

After a legal separation or divorce, the courts may order a child custody or parenting time agreement, in which one parent does not have full or joint custody, but visitation rights. Visitation rights in Illinois grant parents the opportunity to visit children in supervised or unsupervised settings on a predetermined schedule.

Shared parenting time is important after a divorce, as studies show that children do best when they remain in contact with both parents. If something, such as your job, prevents you from fulfilling your visitation hours, learn the possible repercussions of missing too many meetings. In other cases, a judge may decide that giving only one parent custody would better serve a child’s best interests.

Overview of Physical and Legal Custody in Illinois

Illinois’ child custody and visitation laws distinguish between physical and legal custody. A parent or parents with “physical custody” lives with the child. A parent with “legal custody” can make major medical, educational, or religious decisions on the child’s behalf. Depending on the child’s best interests, a judge may award one parent sole legal and physical custody, joint custody to both parents, or some other combination.

The parent who has primary physical custody of the child is designated as the “custodial parent”. The other parent – even if he or she shares physical custody of the child – is called the “noncustodial parent”.

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

Courts start with the assumption that in most cases, a child’s best interests are fostered by having a healthy and close relationship with both parents. As a result, Illinois law provides that a court may restrict a noncustodial parent’s visitation rights only if the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.

A custodial parent can’t unilaterally restrict the other parent’s visitation rights unless it’s an emergency situation and necessary to protect the child. Visitation isn’t for the parents, it’s for the children and the court’s primary concern is their welfare. Even in cases of abuse, a judge is likely to permit some visitation and add supervision or other restrictions to ensure the child’s safety.

If the court decides visitation should be restricted, it will tailor the restriction to the particular problem it has identified. A court can take the following actions:

  • Prohibit overnight visits
  • Require that visits occur in the custodial parent’s home
  • Prohibit a parent from contact with a child while the parent is under the influence of mind-altering substances
  • Require that visits occur outside the home of the noncustodial parent.
  • Require those visits be supervised by a third party.

Can I Change the Custody Order if the Custodial Parent Is Preventing Visits?

One parent’s denial of visits won’t result in an automatic change of custody. A judge won’t adjust a custody award unless there’s been a material change in circumstances. However, if one parent is consistently denying any sort of visitation and preventing the child from having a relationship with the other parent – the court can intervene.

One of the factors a judge assesses in determining a child’s best interests is each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent. A custodial mother could lose sole custody if she’s consistently preventing visits and communication between the child and the other parent.

Final Thoughts

Child support and visitation rights are separate things and a parent who won’t or can’t pay child support is still entitled to regular visits with the child. Child support, like custody, is for the child’s benefit – not the other parent. Courts presume, unless there’s evidence to the contrary, that children do better when they see both parents regularly.

Custody modification and elimination of visitation rights rest largely with your co-parent. Sticking to your visitation schedule as best you can will prevent any motions for modifications, and retain your rights to visit your child. 

If you find yourself facing the chance of losing custody rights for missing too many visitations, or your ex spouse has missed too many visitations, contact Masters Law Group today for legal counsel.