It is sixteen months after entry of a judgment of divorce.  The mother of the child brought an action to modify the terms of the agreed visitation privileges of the father.

Father filed a counterpetition.  For a modification of custody and for court-ordered psychiatric treatments for the child.

The Trial Court denied father’s petition.  The court granted mother’s request for a reduction in father’s visitation privileges. The court also denied father’s petition for rehearing.   Father appealed.

The Appellate Court held that the trial court judge did not make a threshold inquiry.  Of whether visitation as it existed endangered seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.  That is required by the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Therefore, the trial court judge erred in restricting father’s visitation privileges.

The trial judge here repeatedly stated that he was applying a best interests standard.  He did mention considerations of possible detriment to the child caused by the existing visitation arrangements.  But, he did not make the explicit threshold finding of serious endangerment which would allow restriction of respondent’s visitation rights.

The question accordingly evolves as to whether the modification imposed by the trial court was a “restriction” of respondent’s visitation rights.  This statutorily requires the higher standard of proof.  In this instance, the best interest of the child is a lesser standard for the court to use.

Accordingly, the Appellate Court reversed and remanded with directions to the trial court. To make a finding of whether the previously existing visitation seriously endangered the child. If such a finding is made, the visitation may then be modified in the best interests of the child.

IRMO Solomon, 84 Ill.App.3d 901.