Getting Child Visitation Rights

Getting Child Visitation Rights

Last updated: December 2011

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If you don't have custody of a child, you can usually still regularly visit the child if you:Are a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, or siblingDo not have a criminal record or a history of substance abuseHave a court order from a judgeSometimes a parent will not be given rights to visit their child. This could happen when:One parent is a violent felon who has harmed childrenOne parent has a substance addictionThere is a history of child abuseClick on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.Who can get visitation rights? If you are the the child's parent and do not have custody of the child, then you can get visitation rights.In some situations, grandparents, great-grandparents or siblings can also get visitation rights. You should check with your local Court Clerk for any specific visitation guidelines for your county.Can a parent not be given visitation rights? Yes, but only in the most extreme circumstances will a judge not give visitation rights to a parent. These circumstances include: instances where one parent is a violent felon who has harmed children;when one parent has a substance addiction; or when there is a history of child abuse.Even with these circumstances, the parent may still get supervised visitation. The law generally wants to allow visitation by both parents with their children. The law discourages judges from putting limits on visitation. In most cases, this visitation will be unsupervised.If visitation is being decided in a divorce case, Illinois requires parents to attend a parenting education class before the judge decides a divorce. This class teaches parents ways that they can act to avoid hurting their children during the divorce. Both parents must take this class within 60 days after the first meeting with the judge. In general, the course is at least four hours long and you may be able to take it online. Contact your local Circuit Clerk’s Office for specific information on how to meet this parenting education requirement. Cook County recently approved an online program, and more information on fulfilling the parenting education requirement can be found on the Circuit Court website.Can I demand visitation rights from the other parent without going to court? No. If you do not have a court order for visitation, then the other parent does not have to let you visit your child.How do I get court ordered visitation rights? To get court ordered visitation rights, you must file a "Petition for Visitation." You can contact the Court Clerk where you need to file and ask if there are any pre-printed forms for a Petition for Visitation. If there are pre-printed forms, use those. If there are no forms, you will need to write your own Petition. You will need to state your name, the other parent's name, the child's name and birth date, and how parentage is established. Then, you will need to request that the court grant you visitation. For more information, you can contact a legal aid organization in the the "Find Legal Help" section of this Guide. Where should I file my petition for visitation? If you already have another case involving the child you want visitation for, the "Petition for Visitation" needs to be filed in that case and court. If you are divorced, then you would file your petition in your divorce case. If there was a parentage case, then you need to file your Petition in that case. If there is no other case, you need to go to the court that has proper jurisdiction to make a custody decision in your case.For more information, see the "Find Legal Help" section of this Guide to find a legal organization in your area that can help you.What if I do not live near the court I filed in previously? Your case will be handled in the court that made a decision in your last case. That court keeps jurisdiction over matters relating to the divorce or paternity action. Since there were children involved in your divorce or paternity case, custody was an issue. Visitation is a form of custody, and visitation needs to be heard in the same court as the custody matter.Will I get visitation rights on the day that I go to court? No. Unless it is by agreement with the other parent, you will need to file your petition and then serve it on the other parent. You will then need to ask the court for a hearing date and you will need to notify the other parent of that hearing date. At this future court date, you will testify that you are the parent of the child and that you wish to have visitation with the child. The other parent will then try to prove that the visitation seriously endangers the child. The judge will then order the type of visitation that he or she thinks is proper in your case based on that testimony.Do I have to prove that I am the parent? Yes. In order to file a Petition for Visitation, you need to be able to prove that you are the parent of the child. For fathers, this proof can be established in a paternity case. Therefore, you might need to file a paternity case in addition your Petition for Visitation. As a father, you can acknowledge paternity by a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, which can be used to prove paternity. If you are the father, but were never married to the mother, you will also have to register on the Putative Father Registry. To learn more about the Putative Father Registry, see the information listed under "Related Articles." Unlike fathers, mothers do not need proof of parentage. The law says that you are the mother unless there is proof that you are not.If you are married, you are presumed to be the parent of any child conceived, adopted or born during the marriage. To learn more about filing the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, see the information listed under "Related Articles."Will I get visitation if I am late on my child support payments, or have not paid at all? Yes. In Illinois, visitation and child support are separate issues. Visitation can't be denied just because of a failure to pay child support. However, since judges are very concerned about children being supported by their parents, the judge will probably ask you why you are behind in your child support payments before they make a decision regarding visitation.

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