Legalities, a weekly column that appears in the Help section of the Southern Illinoisan, is a free service of the Self Help Legal Center. You can visit the Southern Illinoisan website at: http://www.southernillinoisan.com
Q: My ex-wife is denying me visitation. A clerk at the courthouse told me that to get my visitation enforced, I need to go back to court to change the court order. A friend told me that I don't need to go to court, I need to get the court order I already have enforced. Who's right?
A: Who is right depends on why you are not getting visitation.
If you are not getting visitation because the order you have is so vague that your ex-wife can effectively deny you visitation without violating the terms of the order, then you might want to think about getting your court order changed. For example, if your visitation order says you should get "reasonable visitation", and your ex-wife believes that "reasonable" means one day every 1000 years, then you will probably need to change your court order to say something like "visitation every other weekend and alternating holidays." A visitation order can be as specific or as general as the parents want it to be - it all depends on how well that they get along and how much discretion and flexibility that they want to have. To change your visitation order, you can download a packet from our website at /selfhelp. Click on the "Child Support/Visitation/Custody" icon. Keep in mind, however, that making a visitation order more specific is not always a good thing. For example, if your visitation order says that you receive visitation on "April 3rd at 10:00 a.m." and you can't exercise your visitation rights on that date, you may be out of luck unless your order allows you the opportunity and the ability to change the schedule.
If you are not getting visitation because your ex-wife doesn't care what the court order says, even if it is specific, then you might want to think about getting the court order enforced. Contrary to the advice of your friend, you may have to go back to court to enforce your court order as in most counties, the local police or sheriff do not like to get involved in enforcing visitation orders unless there is an order of protection involved or a risk of abduction or flight. For example, if your visitation order says that you should get visitation "every other weekend" and your ex-wife has not given you visitation for 4 months, then you probably do not need to get your court order changed, you just need to get it enforced. To enforce your visitation order, you can download a packet from our website at /selfhelp. Click on the "Child Support/Visitation/Custody" icon. Keep in mind, however, that you should not rush to court the first time your visitation is denied and ,in most cases, you should try to resolve your visitation disputes with the other party through mediation before you involve the court. One exception to this rule would be if there was a risk of harm to yourself or your children if you try to take action on your own.
Do you have a legal question? Write us at Self Help Legal Center, SIU School of Law, Mailcode 6804, Carbondale, Illinois or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all questions will be answered and may be edited for space or content.
Legalities is written by the Self Help Legal Center, a public service of the SIU School of Law. The Self Help Legal Center cannot provide legal representation. It can, however, help you find the answer to your legal problem. This column is for general legal information purposes only and the advice given in this column may not apply to your situation. For specific legal advice about your situation, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice in Illinois. This column is not meant to give legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.