What to Do If an Ex-Spouse Withholds Visitation

When parents file for divorce, the court will issue a child custody order that determines each party’s custody and visitation rights and responsibilities. However, sometimes the custodial parent will refuse to let the other parent visit the child, which violates the custody order. 

If your co-parent is intentionally and wrongfully withholding visitation, the following are several steps you can take to enforce the court order: 

  • Document missed visitation – Keep a record of each time the other parent fails to follow the visitation order. You can use a calendar to mark the days of all missed visits. Additionally, maintain all phone, text, and e-mail records of any attempt to exercise your visitation rights. All this documentation can be used as evidence in a court hearing. 

  • Try to resolve the issue directly with the other parent – If your ex-spouse withholds visitation occasionally, both of you can work together and schedule make-up dates to get back on track. If the other parent continuously refuses visitation, you can try to resolve your differences through mediation, in which a neutral third party helps both parties work out disagreements over custody without involving the court. 

  • Have your attorney send a letter – If your ex-spouse will not agree to schedule make-up dates, mediation, or any other solution to the issue, have your lawyer send an official letter, which states that you are willing to take legal action if the problem continues. 

  • Go to court – If the letter does not result in any positive action, you may have no choice but to file a “motion to compel,” in which the court restates that the other parent must follow the current court order.  If the other parent still ignores the order, then he/she can be held in contempt of court, which can result in fines, having to pay the petitioning parent’s attorney fees, and other penalties. 

Did you know that “unlawful visitation or parenting time interference” is a criminal offense in Illinois? The crime is considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of less than one year and a fine of up to $2,500. 

While you may be able to get the police involved in your case, doing so would only cause more turmoil between you and the other parent. Furthermore, if such action is witnessed by your child, he/she could become emotionally scarred. 

Lastly, do not withhold child support payments in response to being denied visitation. Not only are child custody and child support orders completely separate matters, but withholding child support can also result in legal troubles. 

If you are interested in enforcing or modifying a child custody or visitation order in Chicago, IL, call the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. at (312) 487-2795 or fill out our online contact form today for a phone consultation. Serving the Chicagoland area since 2009! 

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