When Do Courts Apply Parenting Time Restrictions?
By: M. Scott Gordon
Divorce can be messy, especially when there are children from the marriage. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), courts generally presume that parents will share in raising their children and making decisions about their child’s well-being and upbringing more generally. You may know that Illinois recently changed the way it handles child custody and visitation, which we now call parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parenting time refers to the amount of time a parent physically spends with the child, which involves the parent exercising basic caretaking functions for the child. When divorces are contentious, and parents are extremely angry at one another, they may want to prevent the other parent from seeing the child.
Under Illinois law, can you prevent the other parent from spending time with the child? Generally speaking, courts in the Chicago area will only restrict parenting time—especially to the point that the other parent does not see the child at all—in very limited circumstances where the child’s health or safety might be at risk. Let us tell you more about parenting time restrictions in Chicagoland.
Presumption That Both Parents Will Have Parenting Time
Under the IMDMA (750 ILCS 5/602.7), when the court allocates parenting time, it begins from the presumption that both parents will have some amount of parenting time unless there is a really good reason not to allocate parenting time to both people. Specifically, the statute declares that both parents are presumed to be fit, and that the court will not restrict any parenting time unless it determines by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent’s award of parenting time would seriously endanger the child.
The “preponderance of the evidence” standard essentially means that the weight of the evidence needs to show that one of the parents would put the child’s health or safety at risk in order for the court to restrict parenting time. As such, just because the parents cannot get along with one another and are going through an especially contentious divorce does not mean that the court will consider a restriction on parenting time.
Reasons the Court Might Restrict Parenting Time
Generally speaking, courts are going to assume that it is in the child’s best interest to spend time with both parents, even if both of those parents are not involved in making most of the significant decisions about the child’s upbringing. We mentioned above that the court will only restrict parenting time in limited circumstances. What are some examples of the type of evidence that could lead a court to decide it is in the best interests of the child to restrict parenting time?
Examples might include some of the following:
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