Last updated: November 2006
Use this Guide if you are a parent who does not have custody of your children, and have been given non-specific visitation schedule such as "reasonable visitation" or "as agreed by the parties." Read the "Common Questions" to learn about what is a normal visitation schedule and if you should talk to a lawyer. Go to the "Forms/Letters" section to fill out your forms to ask the Court for a specific visitation schedule.Follow the "Step-by-Step" instructions to file your petition and be heard by a judge. Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.Should I use this guide? You should use this guide if you are a non-custodial parent who has been given non-specific visitation in a divorce or parentage Judgment. If you are having trouble seeing your children regularly or as often as you like, then follow this guide to set up a specific visitation schedule.You should also check with your local Court Clerk for any specific visitation guidelines for your county.Do I need a lawyer? You can get a specific visitation schedule on your own, but it's always best to have a lawyer help you, if possible. There are some situations where it is more important to have a lawyer. You should not use this guide without talking with a lawyer if:There are any claims that you are a danger to the custodial parent or the children;You want more visitation than what is normally given;You have not seen your children for a long time;You are behind in your child support payments. Your right to visitation should not be affected by your failure to make child support payments. However, you should be aware that when you ask for specific visitation, the court may address the child support issue as well. You should talk with a lawyer if this describes your situation. You can search the "Helpful Organizations" section below to find free legal help.What rights do I have to visit my children? If the judge gave you non-specific visitation in a divorce or parentage judgment (such as "reasonable visitation" or "as the parties may agree"), you still have the right to see your children regularly. This includes holidays and times during summer vacation. The other parent cannot keep you from seeing the children, unless there is some danger to the child. Your right to visit your children may be limited by the changing social and educational needs of the children. What is a normal visitation schedule? The answer depends upon the child's age and whether there is somewhere for the child to sleep during overnight visits. Most often overnight visitation is allowed except with very young children.Non-custodial parents usually see their children:Every other weekendEvery other holidayFather's Day or Mother's DayOn their birthday, andOn their child's birthday every other yearUsually there are also longer visits during school breaks and summer vacations.If your child is very young, you may see the child more often but for shorter periods of time. This may mean no overnight visits until the child is older.Go to the "Related Articles" section to read more about visitation guidelines.What should I do before taking this to court? You should try to work out a schedule with the custodial parent. If the two of you are having trouble working this out, you can get the help of a mediator. Mediators are trained to help people solve disagreements on their own. Going to a mediator can be easier and quicker than going to court. You can contact the Center for Conflict Resolution (312-922.6464) to see if you qualify for free mediation services. The Mediation Council of Illinois (312-641-3000) provides referrals to private mediators.What if the custodial parent will not agree to, or follow, a voluntary schedule? You will then have to file a court case to get a specific visitation schedule. You need to fill out and file a Petition for Specific Visitation, which is included in the "Forms/Letters" section of this guide.Once in court, what if the other parent still will not agree to a schedule? The reason why the custodial parent will not agree is important. If you and the custodial parent agree that you should be seeing the children but you can't agree on a schedule, the Judge will most likely order mediation. If the custodial parent gives any reason why visitation would put the children in danger, either physically or mentally, you should ask the judge for a "continuance" so that you can talk with a lawyer.What if the other parent has a lawyer? You can still try to come to an agreement in court. If you cannot agree, ask the Judge for a mediator. A mediator may be able to help you reach an agreement. If the lawyer is trying to limit your visitation unfairly, or keep you from visiting, you should talk with a lawyer yourself. Search the "Helpful Organizations" section below to find free legal help.What if we go to mediation and still cannot agree? Then you will go back to court and the Judge will decide on a visitation schedule for you. What happens if I have to go to court? You must take these steps to go to court:File your court forms. These include a Petition for Specific Visitation and a Notice of Motion. You can find these forms in the "Forms/Letters" section;Notify the custodial parent. After filing your court forms, you must send a copy of them to the custodial parent;Go to court. When you file your court forms, you will be given a court date. You and the custodial parent will appear in court, explain the problem to the Judge, present evidence, and let the Judge decide on a visitation schedule.Go to the "Step-by-Step" section to get more detailed information about what you need to do.What can I do if the other parent doesn't let me see my children after the court orders a specific visitation schedule? Illinois law lets you take the other parent back to court when "visitation abuse" has occured. When you have already been given a specific visitation schedule by the court, visitation abuse can happen when the other parent does not let you see your children without having a good reason.If the judge agrees with you, there are a few different things she might do. The judge could change the visitation schedule or order make up visits for the ones that were missed. The judge can also make you and the other parent go to counseling or mediation.Decide If You Need a Lawyer It is always better to have a lawyer represent you, but you can go to court to get a visitation schedule by yourself. There are some situations where it is more important to have a lawyer. You should talk with a lawyer if:There are claims made that you are a danger to the custodial parent or to the children;You are behind in your child support payments;You are seeking more visitation than is normal; orYou have not seen your children for a long time.Even if your situation does not match one of these, you may still want to hire a lawyer to represent you, especially if the custodial parent has one. You can search the "Helpful Organizations" section below to find free legal help.Talk with the Custodial Parent The easiest way to decide on a visitation schedule is to talk with the custodial parent and see if you can agree on a schedule. If you are able, you should talk with the custodial parent to see if you can work out a schedule on your own. Enter Mediation If you and the custodial parent can't agree on a visitation schedule, you should try mediation before going to court. Mediation allows you and the custodial parent to sit down with a professional mediator who can help the two sides try to work out an agreement. The mediator can't make decisions for you, but can help you come to an agreement.Go to the "Related Articles" section for more information on mediation.Fill Out Your Forms If talking with the custodial parent and mediation don't work, then your next step will be to file a case in court so the judge can decide your visitation schedule. You must fill out these forms:Petition for Specific VisitationNotice of MotionOrder for Specific VisitationThese forms can be found in the "Forms/Letters" section of this guide.File the Petition for Specific Visitation If your visitation order was entered as part of a divorce case:Go to Room 802 of the Richard J. Daley Center at Dearborn & Washington Streets in Chicago;Go to the "Motion Counter" and get a motion slip;Write the name of your case, the case number and the title of your Petition in the spaces on the motion slip;Give the motion slip to the to the clerk at the Motion Counter;The clerk will tell you who your judge is and give you a court date ;Fill out the name of your judge and the court date on the Notice of Motion;Go to the filing counter and give your Petitions to the filing clerk;The clerk will keep the original and give you back stamped copies.If your visitation order was part of a paternity case:Go to Room 200 at 28 North Clark Street, Chicago;Go to the "Motion Counter" and get a motion slip;Write the name of your case, the case number and the title of your Petition in the spaces on the motion slip;Give the clerk your motion slip and Petitions;The clerk will give you the name of your judge and a court date ;The clerk will keep your original Petition and give you back stamped copies;Fill out the name of your judge and the court date on the Notice of Motion.Inform the Other Parent of the Court Date You must inform the other parent of the court date to get specific visitation. You should do the following in order to notify the other parent:Staple a copy of the Notice of Motion on top of one copy of the Petition for Specific Visitation. Mail this to the other parent at least 7 days before the court date.Fill out the Certificate and Affidavit of Delivery at the bottom of the Notice of Motion. Sign the form in all places. Make two copies. Bring the original and copies with you to court. If you don't have them, the Judge may not let you present your case. Go to Your Court Date Get to court at least 15 minutes early. Dress as you would for an important business meeting;Go to the clerk in the courtroom where your case is being heard. Tell the clerk that you are there and that you are representing yourself. Then sit down and wait for your case to be called;When the clerk calls your case name, step up in front of the Judge. Introduce yourself. Speak loudly and clearly. If the other parent is there, let them introduce themselves;Give the original Notice of Motion and a copy of the Petition for Specific Visitation to the Judge;Tell the judge that you have already been granted "reasonable visitation" but you need a specific visitation schedule;Answer any questions the Judge may have for you briefly and truthfully;The Judge will grant, deny, or continue your Petition.If Your Petition Is Granted The Judge will agree that you need a specific schedule and will either give you the schedule you asked for, or set his or her own. If the Judge awards the schedule that you are asking for, you may use the Order that you have already prepared. If the Judge sets his or her own schedule, then you can make changes to your Order by hand, or write a new Order.If Your Case Is Continued If the case is "continued" it means that no decision is being made now, and the judge will set another court date for you to come back. The case may be continued for many reasons, such as:The custodial parent asks for a continuance;The custodial parent is not in court. The Judge might give the custodial parent one more chance to appear;The Judge orders the parties to attend mediation.If the case is continued, be sure to write an order that says that. You will get a new court date, which you must include in your order.If Your Petition Is Denied If your petition is denied, that would be very unusual. You should talk to a lawyer if that happens.File Your New Visitation Order Once you get an Order from the Judge, you must take it to the clerk. The clerk will file the original, and give you 2 stamped copies.Keep one copy of the Order and give the other copy to the other parent. If the other parent is not there, you must mail it to him or her.
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