The Discretion in Granting Visitation in Illinois

The issue of visitation is governed by ILCS 5/607(a), which provides that “a parent not granted custody of the child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.”  This provides the Courts with broad discretion in allowing visitation to a non-custodial parent.   In, In re Marriage of Engelkens, 354 Ill. App. 3d 790, 792 (2004) it states, the “trial court has broad  discretion in fashioning the terms of visitation and those terms will not be overturned absent proof that the court has abused its discretion.” An abuse of discretion exists where no reasonable person would agree with the position of the trial court.  Brax v. Kennedy, 363 Ill. App. 3d 343, 355 (2005).  The Court can grant very specific visitation terms to parents so they fit into this statute.  I recently saw a Judge grant a mother visitation for two hours a week at the local McDonald’s because he wanted her to have visitation but extended unsupervised visitation could possibly be harmful to the child.

The right to reasonable visitation in section 607(a) of the Act also “implies a ‘”best interest of the child”’ standard” that is, a noncustodial parent’s right to visitation in the first place is determined by the child’s best interests.”  In re Marriage of Chehaiber, 394 Ill. App. 3d 690, 696 (2009).  The best interest of the child standard is commonly used in child custody proceedings. It can also be broadly applied but encourages Judges to focus on making a decision that is in the overall best interest of the child, rather than the parents or any other party that may be involved. Very often a Child Representative or Guardian Ad Litem will make a recommendation to the Judge after evaluating a family’s particular situation and that will help influence what the child’s best interests are as well.

Visitation schedules can  be modified to fit each particular case that comes through the Courts.  Every family has different needs and circumstances and ILCS 5/607(a) allows Judges to evaluate those and implement a plan that is in the best interests of the child in each particular case.

Leave a Reply