A VOYAGE INTO THE DEEP BLUE SEA OF VISITATION (ALTERNATE PARENTING TIME) LITIGATION

An Intelligent approach to visitation (or as it should be Alternate Parenting Time); Whether you have been a very attentive parent or simply passive (phoning it in), your attitude about your children will dramatically change as soon as you are facing a Judge in either a Divorce (Dissolution of Marriage) or Parenting (single parent issues) case. Unless you have been absolutely absent from your child, you will not be happy. Before we get to the specifics there are some rules of law that need to be understood:

The court’s first concern is the “best interest of the child”
The second concern is the fact the statute for visitation grans a right of “reasonable visitation,

Sec. 607. Visitation.

  1. A parent not granted custody of the child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would endanger seriously the child's physical, mental, moral or emotional health. If the custodian's street address is not identified, pursuant to Section 708, the court shall require the parties to identify reasonable alternative arrangements for visitation by a non custodial parent, including but not limited to visitation of the minor child at the residence of another person or at a local public or private facility.
    1. "Visitation" means in person time spent between a child and the child's parent. In appropriate circumstances, it may include electronic communication under conditions and at times determined by the court.
    2. "Electronic communication" means time that a parent spends with his or her child during which the child is not in the parent's actual physical custody, but which is facilitated by the use of communication tools such as the telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, video conferencing or other wired or wireless technologies via the Internet, or another medium of communication.

The case law in Illinois has elevated the level of being a right that without due process cannot be denied and the burden of proof for imposing supervised visitation requires a evidentiary hearing.

Visitation abuse is also treated specifically in the Illinois Statutes:

Sec. 607.1. Enforcement of visitation orders; visitation abuse.

  1. 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.

OK, now you have the law and it is only the visible part of the Iceberg known as Visitation. The next thing is questions about practicality:

if either or both parents are working outside of the home, where is the child going and who is paying for it;
if the child is young or has special needs, who is the “real primary person” on these issues; and
Finally How to balance each parent’s desire for quality time without getting into the issues of quantity of time.

Since the terms Custody (with or without the unnecessary descriptive adjective “sole” or even worst the description of winner/loser) are best expressed in a Parenting Agreement (same thing except a lot less offensive as “Custody”) and an Alternating Parenting Time; stay tuned and I will write another note on the Parenting Agreements, for now in APT (alternate parenting time)

Once you have determined that the children have no special needs and are not so young that issues of transportation and attachment arise, you probably want to know what is typical:

Weekends are the quality times. This is something that both parents should have and there is perhaps no better way than at least Friday afternoon thru Sunday (see my comment on extending the weekend); so typically there is an alternating weekend provision;

Weekdays can be quality times or merely quantity time; if the parents live close enough and the children are flexible enough, some success at dividing the week days as well as overnights. However if the travel distance is too great or the children not flexible enough to sleep out during the week, this may be a matter of after school until a hour before the child’s bed time, once or twice a week;

Another alternative commonly used is to make the weekend for each parent begin Friday and end Monday morning. With younger children the week day can give each parent two days each and amounts to an almost 50/50 division. HOWEVER, the issue of child support is not necessarily decrease by the time ratio...

So, you ask, what do I propose: the answer is dependent on the ages of the children. Generally split parenting time of at least alternating weekends Friday thru Monday and twice during the week, if both parents are “involved” seems fair. In conformity with this though, my recommendation is a complete division (alternating) of all holidays and children birthday... Father’s day with Father; Mother’s day with Mother... and a division of the extended vacation during spring, winter, and summer;