In a decision made in September 2006, the Illinois Appellate Court took another step in defining what constitutes Unlawful parenting time Interference. David and Jodi had been married for 19 years at the time of their divorce in 2003. They had two children, a daughter who was 15 years old, and their son who was 10 years old. Jodi had been granted allocation of parental responsibilities at the time of their divorce and David had been granted specific parenting time with his children. Even though allocation of parental responsibilities had been awarded to Jodi, a parenting agreement had been signed by the parties which had the following specific requirements:
- The former spouses had to work together to resolve scheduling conflicts, and cooperate in rescheduling missed visits;
- Jodi was barred from ever withholding parenting time because of child support disputes;
- Jodi was prohibited from discussing future disagreements with David in the presence of the children;
- Each party was prohibited from making disparaging remarks about the other parent in front of the children;
- Jodi was required to disclose the minor children’s grades and school records to David;
- The children were required to attend psychological therapy; and
- Jodi was required to consult with David prior to making decisions regarding extracurricular activities for the minor children.
Approximately six months after the parties’ divorce, in May 2004, David filed a petition asking that Jodi be held in indirect civil contempt of court, and further made allegations of Unlawful parenting time Interference against Jodi. Some of David’s allegations were as follows:
- The minor children refused to stay overnight at David’s house;
- Jodi discussed her financial disputes with David in front of the children;
- Jodi removed David’s name from their daughter’s contact list at school, which prevented David from being informed about his daughter’s grades and school events;
- Jodi enrolled the children in extracurricular activities during David’s court ordered parenting time;
- Jodi told David that if he did not pay for their daughter’s upcoming trip to Philadelphia, PA, that Jodi was going to tell her daughter that she could not go to Philadelphia because her father would not pay;
- Jodi scheduled a surprise birthday party for her daughter on David’s weekend parenting time, and David was not invited; and,
- David did not have parenting time on his birthday nor on Father’s Day, even though specifically allowed in the parenting agreement;
Jodi’s defenses to all of these allegations were that the children disliked their father, the children chose to attend extracurricular activities rather than visit with their father, and that even if Jodi violated the terms of the parenting agreement, and her conduct was not intentional.
The initial trial court determination on David’s petition asking that Jodi be held in indirect civil contempt of court, and David’s petition for Unlawful parenting time Interference was that both parents were “bad parents,” but Jodi’s conduct in violating numerous terms of the parenting agreement, although egregious, was somehow justified because of David’s poor parenting skills.
The trial court decision was reversed in September, 2006 by the Illinois Appellate Court. At no time did Jodi ever provide lawful justification for her numerous violations of the parenting agreement, and accordingly, the Illinois Appellate Court instructed the trial court to once again review the case, and order the trial court to impose sanctions against Jodi, including the payment of all of David’s reasonable attorneys fees, which could amount to several thousands of dollars.
In summary, no matter how many times parents are counseled by their attorneys to leave children out of any ongoing disputes with their former spouses, this advice often times does not register, or the parents simply cannot control their behavior. Once parties are divorced, all parents should make his and her respective best efforts to allow their children to continue developing their relationship with each parent without interference from the other parent.