Governor Quinn has now signed a new law that will provide parents in Bloomington some significant remedies in pursuing child visitation interference. This new law would permit courts in McLean County to punish visitation interference about as severely as failure to pay child support.
The Illinois State Bar Association fought hard against the bill, arguing that the bill was unconstitutional. Here is the actual language the new law:
(750 ILCS 5/607.1) (from Ch. 40, par. 607.1)
Sec. 607.1. Enforcement of visitation orders; visitation abuse.
(a) The circuit court shall provide an expedited procedure for enforcement of court ordered visitation in cases of visitation abuse. Visitation abuse occurs when a party has willfully and without justification: (1) denied another party visitation as set forth by the court; or (2) exercised his or her visitation rights in a manner that is harmful to the child or child's custodian.
(b) An Action may be commenced by filing a petition setting forth: (i) the petitioner's name, residence address or mailing address, and telephone number; (ii) respondent's name and place of residence, place of employment, or mailing address; (iii) the nature of the visitation abuse, giving dates and other relevant information; (iv) that a reasonable attempt was made to resolve the dispute; and (v) the relief sought.
Notice of the filing of the petitions shall be given as provided in Section 511.
(c) After hearing all of the evidence, the court may order one or more of the following: (1) Modification of the visitation order to specifically outline periods of visitation or restrict visitation as provided by law. (2) Supervised visitation with a third party or public agency. (3) Make up visitation of the same time period, such as weekend for weekend, holiday for holiday. (4) Counseling or mediation, except in cases where there is evidence of domestic violence, as defined in Section 1 of the Domestic Violence Shelters Act, occurring between the parties. (5) Other appropriate relief deemed equitable.
(c-1) When the court issues an order holding a party in contempt for violation of a visitation order and finds that the party engaged in visitation abuse, the court may order one or more of the following: (1) Suspension of a party's Illinois driving privileges pursuant to Section 7-703 of the Illinois Vehicle Code until the court determines that the party is in compliance with the visitation order. The court may also order that a party be issued a family financial responsibility driving permit that would allow limited driving privileges for employment, for medical purposes, and to transport a child to or from scheduled visitation in order to comply with a visitation order in accordance with subsection (a-1) of Section 7-702.1 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. (2) Placement of a party on probation with such conditions of probation as the court deems advisable. (3) Sentencing of a party to periodic imprisonment for a period not to exceed 6 months; provided, that the court may permit the party to be released for periods of time during the day or night to: (A) work; or (B) conduct a business or other self-employed occupation. (4) Find that a party in engaging in visitation abuse is guilty of a petty offense and should be fined an amount of no more than $500 for each finding of visitation abuse.
(d) Nothing contained in this Section shall be construed to limit the court's contempt power, except as provided in subsection (g) of this Section.
(e) When the court issues an order holding a party in contempt of court for violation of a visitation order, the clerk shall transmit a copy of the contempt order to the sheriff of the county. The sheriff shall furnish a copy of each contempt order to the Department of State Police on a daily basis in the form and manner required by the Department. The Department shall maintain a complete record and index of the contempt orders and make this data available to all local law enforcement agencies.
(f) Attorney fees and costs shall be assessed against a party if the court finds that the enforcement action is vexatious and constitutes harassment.
(g) A person convicted of unlawful visitation or parenting time interference under Section 10-5.5 of the Criminal Code of 1961 shall not be subject to the provisions of this Section and the court may not enter a contempt order for visitation abuse against any person for the same conduct for which the person was convicted of unlawful visitation interference or subject that person to the sanctions provided for in this Section.
(Source: P.A. 96-333, eff. 8-11-09; 96-675, eff. 8-25-09; 97-1047, eff. 8-21-12.)
To summarize, a custodial parent who interferes with the visitation of the non-custodial parent "willingly and without justification," can have her driver's license suspended, be fined, jailed for up to six months, forced to post bond, etc.
One unique feature of the new law is that it requires McLean County to establish an "expedited procedure" for dealing with visitation interference. It should stand to reason that the procedure will be as quick as the one for child support arrearages. It's long been one of the most serious, though least noticed, problems non-custodial parents face – the time it takes to get a hearing. It's certainly true when a downward modification of child support is sought, and it's true in the case of visitation interference as well. Often as not, by the time the hearing rolls around, the matter has gotten out of hand; Dad may not have seen his kid in months. So with an expedited procedure fathers in Bloomington can get into court quickly with the hope of swift, sure action being taken.
Jon D. McLaughlin