Visitation interference is common in Illinois child custody disputes. It is also a crime in Illinois pursuant to Section 10-5.5 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/10-5.5). Aside from committing a crime, a person who interferes with visitation would most likely be in violation of a court order; for more information about getting someone to follow a court order, see my post “Court orders: Get them enforced!”
The law states that “Every person who, in violation of the visitation, parenting time, or custody time provisions of a court order relating to child custody, detains or conceals a child with the intent to deprive another person of his or her rights to visitation, parenting time, or custody time commits the offense of unlawful visitation or parenting time interference.”
Below are some important points about the crime of visitation interference:
- Getting prosecution is difficult: The crime of visitation interference is just that – a crime. And because private individuals do not prosecute crimes, the state’s attorney must bring charges. Unfortunately, the state’s attorney has no where near the capacity to pursue every parenting who has committed the crime of visitation interference.
- Joint custody creates difficulties with police: Although the statute does not say parents who share joint legal custody are exempt from the crime of visitation interference, many police departments believe that is that case because of their interpretation of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling. Further, police generally do not want to get involved in child custody disputes, so trying to avoid arresting someone for visitation interference is fairly consistent with their general attitudes towards child custody.
- Either parent can commit the crime: Traditionally, one parent is viewed as the “residential parent” and the other parent receives visitation, or “parenting time.” And although the law is most commonly though of as applying to interference with visitation specifically, it can also apply to the parent who receives visitation if he or she interferes with the other parent’s court-ordered time.
- A non-parent can commit the crime: Even a person who is not a parent can be convicted of the crime of visitation interference. For instance, if a friend of one parent does something to interfere with the other parent’s time with the child, that freind could be convicted of visitation interference.