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Understanding custody interference

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2022 | Divorce |

Unfortunately, children are sometimes used as pawns if their parents’ relationship has ended on bad terms. It’s not uncommon for parents to stall on agreeing to a parenting plan because they’re unhappy with their romantic relationship’s demise. Situations like these can even motivate parents already subject to an Illinois court order to stop abiding by it. 

Any actions that rise to the level of custody interference may result in a parent losing custody of their child. Therefore, it’s important to know what this entails.

What to know about joint custody arrangements

Parents who share joint physical custody generally cannot take their children and spend time with them whenever they like. Instead, they must agree to a parenting plan dictating a schedule for custody, visitation and exchanges. 

Many of these agreements clearly state how parents should handle holidays, school breaks, birthdays and out-of-state travel. These parenting plans additionally detail requirements about how parents must notify each other if extenuating circumstances require a deviation from the stated schedule.

Since a parenting plan is a court order, any parent who violates it risks having their parental rights impacted.

Defining custodial interference

Anyone taking proactive measures to prevent their child from seeing their other parent as outlined in a parenting plan may face custodial interference charges.

It doesn’t matter if a parent is disappointed by their ex’s lack of child support payments or their parenting style. Parents also cannot withhold their child as leverage to gain increased parenting time or custodial rights. Parents must ensure their child is always available at previously agreed-to exchange times to comply with the court order.

An exception to the custodial interference standard

An exception to the rule would be if your child were facing some imminent harm by a parent if the exchange were to take place.

If a parent knows their child will face abuse or their caregiver is intoxicated or on drugs, for example, they can generally refuse to follow through with the previously established trade-off schedule. However, the parent who keeps the child must notify the court of their reasoning for doing so immediately thereafter to protect their custodial interests.

Implications parents engaging in custodial interference face

The potential penalties a parent may face for not following through with parenting time exchanges are largely up to the presiding judge’s discretion. Situations in which a parent habitually engages in these custody interference tactics may result in a judge significantly reducing parenting time or altogether depriving them of their custodial rights.