Having parental responsibilities means making important decisions for a child, and spending time with them. This used to be called "custody," but that term is no longer used in Illinois.
If you have an order giving you parental responsibilities, the other parent has to let you use them. For example, if the order says that you have parenting time on weekends, the other parent has to let you pick up the child on the weekends. If the other parent is not allowing you to use your parental responsibilities, you can ask a judge to force them to let you.
You may ask the court to make someone who is not following a court judgment or order to follow it. This is called enforcing.
If you have a court judgment or order that needs to be modified you may also ask the court to make those changes.
You should first try to work out the problem with the other party before going to court. If you are having trouble talking with the other party, you may want to try mediation. If mediation does not work, going to court may be the best option to enforce or modify your judgment or order.
1. Try to work out problems with your spouse
Try to work out the problem with the other parent first. Do not threaten or argue with them.
If you are having trouble talking to the other parent, you may want to try mediation. In mediation, a mediator will help the two of you work out the problem. Referrals for mediation are available through the Center for Conflict Resolution at (312) 922-6464. Referrals to private mediators are available through the Mediation Council of Illinois at (312) 641-3000.
2. Get a copy of the parental responsibilities court order
If you don't already have one, you will need to get a copy of the parental responsibilities order.
3. Ask the court to enforce the order (fill out Rule to Show Cause and Notice of Motion)
You will need 3 copies of each of the following documents:
The petition must say:
- Your name, address, and telephone number
- The respondent's name and place of residence, place of employment, or address
- What the violation of the order was, including dates and other relevant information
- What ways you tried to fix the problem outside of court
- What you are asking for
4. File your documents
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Most counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If your county allows paper filing, or you have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations. The clerk will stamp your forms. This stamp is important because it's proof that you filed the form with the court. They will give you a copy for your records.
There is no fee to use eFileIL, but there is a fee to file most forms with the court and additional court costs. The amount depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees. If you do not pay the fees required your e-filed document may be rejected. These fees are calculated by the eFileIL system and may also include a credit card or eCheck processing fee.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.
How you will find out about the court date (or hearing date) and time depends on how you filed your case.
- E-filing: The website you used to electronically file may let you pick your court date (or hearing date) and time. If it does not, contact the clerk.
- Paper filing: If you filed in person at the courthouse, the clerk will let you pick or they may pick for you.
5. Send a copy to the other parent
Paper filing documents? Send a copy of the Petition for Rule to Show Cause stapled with a Notice of Motion to the other parent using certified mail with a receipt from the post office with Return Receipt to get an electronic or physical delivery record showing the recipient's signature. After, fill out a Certificate and Affidavit of Delivery and bring copies of these with you to court.
Note: You must complete this step at least seven days before your court date.
6. Go to court
You have the right to represent yourself in court. However, you will be expected to follow the court's rules and procedures when representing yourself. The judge and court staff are not allowed to give you advice or help you with your case. To navigate the court system, you need to know some basic information about your case. Most of the information should be listed on court papers:
- Plaintiff's or Petitioner's name
- Defendant's or Respondent's name
- Case number
- Judicial circuit
If you are filing a case, you are called the plaintiff. If a case has been filed against you, you are called the defendant. In some cases, the plaintiff is called the petitioner, and the defendant is called the respondent.
- Be polite and dress the way you would for a job interview;
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time;
- Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check-in quietly with the courtroom staff;
- Wait for your name and case number to be called;
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself;
- Explain briefly what you want out of the case;
- After listening to you and to the other side, the judge tells you what happens next.
After you and the other parent have had a chance to speak, the judge will make a decision. It can often take several court dates for the matter to be resolved. This means that the judge may not make a final decision on your first trip to court.
If the judge does not believe the other parent disobeyed the order, your case will probably be dismissed.
If you notify the other parent of the court date, and they don't come, the judge may try to make them appear. The judge will enter an Order on Rule to Show Cause. This says that the other parent must appear in court on a certain date for a hearing and show cause to the court why they should not be held in contempt of court for violating a court order on purpose.
If the judge believes that the other parent disobeyed the order without a good reason, the judge could find them in contempt of court. If the judge finds the parent to be in contempt, the judge will decide on a punishment. This could be a fine, counseling, or even a jail sentence of up to 6 months.
The judge may order both of you to mediation to try to fix the problem. The judge could also make changes to the order to make it work better.
If this is your first time going to court, learn more about the process of Going to court in Illinois.
7. Get a copy of the order
If the judge enters an Order on Rule to Show Cause, you should get a copy of the order for yourself, and another copy to give to the other parent.
If the other side has a lawyer, and the lawyer prepares the order, make sure you read it before it is presented for the judge's signature. If you disagree with the order, try to work out the problem with the lawyer. If that does not work, tell the clerk you need to speak to the judge again.
Updated: January 2018