Frequently clients have questions about restricting parental responsibilities in Illinois. Usually they say something like, “I have concerns with my children’s safety when they’re with my ex; can I restrict his (or her) parenting time?”
So and what happens when a child’s parent is failing at being a responsible parent? If there are reasonable concerns about a child’s safety during parenting time with the other parent, seeking input from the court becomes necessary.
Parenting Time and the Child’s Best Interest
In Illinois, courts are interested in what is in a child’s best interests. Courts decide issues of parenting time and decision-making responsibilities by determining what is in the child’s best interest. Courts encourage families to maintain strong relationships. There is a presumption that both the mother and father are fit to parent their child. Therefore, courts should not place any restrictions on a parent’s parenting time unless evidence proves that doing so is in the child’s best interests.
Pursuant to Section 603.10 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a party must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the other parent engaged in conduct that seriously endangered the child’s mental, moral, or physical health, or that significantly impaired the child’s emotional development. If this is proven after a hearing, then the court will enter an order as necessary to protect the child. Once this is proven, entry of an order is mandatory.
It is common to hear allegations relating to “bad parenting” in court. Sometimes a parent just does not like the other parent’s parenting style. Sometimes a parent wants to have more control. Sometimes a parent still hasn’t moved on from their previous relationship with the other parent. The court is not there to sort through the parties’ emotions. When a child is involved in a case before the court, the court’s number one priority is to protect that child, as the child’s life and future is being significantly impacted by the court proceedings.
Parental Responsibility Cases Where Parenting Time is Restricted
Some examples of cases where parenting time is restricted involve physical and emotional abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, parent alienation, mental illness, removal of child from the court’s jurisdiction, etc. As you can see, these types of allegations are very serious and the court cannot take them lightly.
When petitions are filed requesting restrictions to parenting time they are usually presented to the court on an emergency basis. A temporary order may be entered until an evidentiary hearing is held. Sometimes the court appoints an attorney on behalf of the child to help investigate the allegations. These are usually attorneys serving in the capacity of a guardian ad litem or a child representative.
Restricting Parenting Time and Orders Protecting Children
If the court determines that a restriction to parenting time is necessary to protect the child, the court must restrict parenting time how they see fit. An order could reduce parenting time or even stop parenting time altogether. The court is also able to order that certain third-parties be barred from being present during a party’s parenting time.
If parenting time is only temporarily restricted, then the court might order the restricted parent to complete certain requirements before the court will modify its temporary restriction.
A parent could be ordered to take parenting classes, anger management classes, or even to attend therapy sessions. If there are issues of substance abuse, the court can order a party to complete drug or alcohol abuse treatment if it is the basis for their restriction. Parents can be prohibited from using or possessing alcohol or drugs during their parenting time and for a specified time before their parenting time begins.
Parenting time can be ordered to be supervised. Sometimes the parties agree to a supervisor. This often happens when there is a neutral family member, like a parent or sibling of one of the parties. When parents cannot agree to a supervisor the court can order supervised parenting time at a facility or with a professional supervisor. There is usually some sort of cost associated with supervised parenting time at a facility or with a professional.
When parents are no longer together, sharing parental responsibilities isn’t always easy especially when one parent isn’t caring for the child appropriately. Contact our family law attorneys today if you have questions about the process of restricting parental responsibility.