Governor Quinn signed the Steven Watkins Memorial Act (SB3823) into law last week.
In November 2008, Steven Watkins, age 32, had gone to pick up his young daughter for a court-ordered visit at the home his estranged wife, Jennifer Watkins, lived at with other family members. Steven was shot in the back and murdered by Jennifer’s grandmother, 76-year-old Shirley Skinner. Shirley is currently serving a 55-year prison sentence after being convicted of killing Steven Watkins. Although Steven’s parents were granted court ordered visitation, Jennifer has continued to ignore the Court’s orders.
The act amends the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Effective Immediately, pursuant to a judge finding that a custodial parent has engaged in visitation violations without good cause, the court now has the power to:
- Suspend the offending party’s Illinois driving privileges until the court has determined that there has been sufficient compliance with the court’s visitation order;
- Issue a family responsibility driving permit to allow limited driving privileges for employment, for medical purposes, and to transport a child pursuant to a visitation order;
- Probation; or
- Periodic imprisonment for up to 6 months, provided that the court may allow periods of release for work.
This is not an original concept. The court already has the power to take these actions against non-custodial parents that fail to pay child support. In fact, it levels the playing field. The custodial parent cannot deny visitation without good cause and the non-custodial parent must pay child support. It is clearly a stick method of motivation rather than a carrot method, but as always, it is to motivate parents to obey the golden rule of the Family Law court system, “Parents should always act in the best interest of the child.”