Do I Have Visitation Rights with My Infant if the Mother Objects?

illinois visitation attorney"As a father in Illinois, do I have visitation rights with my infant child if the mother objects?"

Yes, but not automatically. You must first do the following:

Make sure you sign the (VAP) or Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form at your child's birth. This is equal to a Court Order making you the legal father of your child. Alternatively, if you have acknowledged that you are the father of your child in a paternity case or child support case then you have legal rights as Father to obtain a Court Order for child visitation.

If you did not sign the VAP form or acknowledged that you are the father in a paternity case or child support case,  then you must file your own paternity case to have the Court declare you the legal father. This is not as hard or complicated as it sounds and in likelihood being the legal Father is usually easy to accomplish because the Mother must likely will agree since she would like child support.

Visitation with an Infant is Another Story

There are no absolute rules for a Fathers visitation with an infant in Illinois. In fact, each County in Illinois may have separate rules on infant visitation. You can check your county for any local rule or practice. All is not lost.

If the Mother agrees to your visitation with your infant child, Illinois Courts will generally not interfere. If the mother disagrees, and you have lived together with Mother and have taken care of your child by feeding, bathing and changing or other care, your visitation will be easier to obtain and for longer periods.

Likewise, if you have had regular visitation with your child and Mother stops it, your task is easier to begin visitation again.

If Mother Objects to Visitation, What Happens Then?

If Mother objects to visitation, visitation is usually granted anyway but is restricted with infants and very young children to short regular contact with Father. More frequent visits for shorter times works better for infants and the Courts generally follow this practice. An example would be, three two-hour visits per week, with no overnight visits for a child until age 2. There are reasons for limiting overnight visitation with infants and young children.

Separation Anxiety with Infants and Young Children

All babies seem to experience some separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a normal emotional stage of development that occurs when babies begin to understand that things and people exist even when they're not present – sometimes called  "object permanence." At certain times, babies or toddlers will show real anxiety and be upset in becoming separated from mother.

They understand that their parents can leave,  but they don't,  however,  fully understand that they are coming back.  This can last several weeks to several months.   Infants eventually realize  that their parents are not disappearing forever, but just going to the bathroom.  And they will come. This Separation anxiety can do actual harm to an infant if the baby is separated too often or too early from Mother.

When does separation anxiety most commonly occur? Babies can show signs of separation anxiety as early as 6 or 7 months, but the crisis age for most babies peaks between 10 to 18 months.  Separation anxiety usually eases by the time babies are 24 months old.

Again there are no hard and fast rules as to Infant Visitation, but Illinois Court do follow a general pattern:

Visitation for Infants to Age 2

In Cook County as well as DuPage, Will, Kane and Kendall Counties Visitation for Infants to Age 2 is likely as follows:

  • 1 to 2 hours,  twice a week probably in the home of the Mother, particularly while she is nursing. If not, the child should always be back with the residential parent at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Only consider overnight visits if the visiting parent has been an active part in the daily care of the child. This includes feeding, changing, bathing, and caring for the child's illnesses.
  • Stop overnight visits if the child seems worried or upset about sleeping in a new place. In other words if the child shows signs of separation anxiety.  Visitation can always start again when the child is comfortable.

To discover how best to have good nurturing visitation with an infant, consult with our family lawyers at Martoccio & Martoccio. We are parents who are lawyers and who have had many years of experience raising children of our own and advising parents as to what the most practical and safe visitation arrangement should be made for their child.

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