Non-custodial parents should understand their rights to ensure they maximize every opportunity to interact with their children and participate in decision-making that reflects the children’s best interests. While some rights of non-custodial parents are contained in divorce and custody agreements, others may not be as clear. When discussing parenting time and parental responsibilities with a family law attorney or ex-spouse, the following should be addressed.
The Right to Visitation
In most divorce scenarios in Illinois, non-custodial parents receive a visitation (parenting time) schedule set by the courts. Non-custodial parents need to understand this schedule and comply with its terms. Failing to do so could put parents in contempt of court and jeopardize their time with their children. When conflicts arise, non-custodial parents have the right to have visitation time enforced or request modifications to the court order.
The Right to Seek the Child’s Best Interests
Ultimately, child custody arrangements are about the best interests of the children. In Illinois, custodial and non-custodial parents generally share responsibility when making decisions about education, medical care, religion, extracurricular activities, and other important aspects that may impact the best interests of their children. Sometimes, however, non-custodial parents’ rights may be limited.
The Right to Seek Custody Modification
If a significant change of circumstances has occurred and the non-custodial parent believes the parenting time arrangement is no longer in the best interests of the children, he or she has the right to seek a change with the court. A child custody modification may be approved by the court when abuse or neglects occurs, one or both parents have relocated, or the children’s needs have changed. If both parents agree on the change or the modification is minor, a significant change of circumstances may not be necessary to obtain a modification.
The Right to Legal Help
Non-custodial parents have the right to obtain legal help if they do not agree with the child custody agreement or cannot work out the agreement with the other parent. The initial custody agreement is legally binding, but it can get changed if it is no longer in the children’s best interest, it creates undue hardship on the parents, or either party is not complying with the terms. A family law attorney often helps non-custodial parents enforce their rights through direct communication with the other parent or his or her lawyer, recording violations, or pursuing court action.