Grandparent Visitation in Illinois
Many of us know doting grandparents. They often brag about their grandchildren’s every accomplishment and share an endless stream of photos on Facebook (the digital equivalent of photo-stuffed wallets). And grandparents undeniably have a lot to offer their grandchildren, such as a link to the past, unconditional love and valuable advice on the future.
But what if the grandchildren’s parents refuse to allow the grandparents visitation rights? Do the grandparents have the right to visitation? The answer is yes, under specific circumstances.
Illinois Law on Grandparent Visitation
In 2005 and 2007, Illinois amended the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to allow grandparents, great-grandparents and siblings to petition the Court for visitation. The law presumes that a parent’s decision denying contact between grandparent and grandchild does not harm the child’s physical, emotional or mental health. Therefore, the grandparents have the burden of proving that the parents’ denial of visitation is “unreasonable” and harms the child in some way.
When Grandparents Can Sue for Grandchild Visitation
Because there is a presumption that parents know what’s best for their children, the law permits grandparents to petition for visitation, only if they can prove that the denial of visitation was unreasonable, as well as any one of the following:
- The other parent is deceased or missing for at least three months;
- One of the parents is legally incompetent or has been incarcerated during the three months preceding the filing of the petition;
- The parents are divorced or legally separated, or there is a pending dissolution, and at least one parent isn’t opposed to grandparent visitation (in the case of a pending dissolution, the grandparents would join the proceedings);
- The parents were not married when the child was born, and the parents do not live together. If the grandparents are related through the child’s father, paternity must have been established before the grandparents can petition for visitation.
Factors Illinois Courts Consider When Awarding Grandparent Visitation
Even if the grandparents meet the first two burdens, the Court must consider the following before deciding whether to order visitation:
- The child’s preference, if old enough to express one;
- The physical health and mental health of the child and grandparents;
- The duration of the grandparents’ relationship with the child, as well as its quality;
- The good faith of both the parent denying visitation and the grandparent seeking visitation;
- The amount of requested visitation and potential adverse impact on child’s customary activities;
- Whether the child lived with the grandparents, or the grandparent was a primary caretaker of the child, for six months consecutively;
- Whether the grandparents had consistent contact or visitation with the child for at least 12 consecutive months; and
- Any other facts establishing that the absence of the relationship would harm the child.
If the Court awards visitation, the amount of that visitation is up to the Judge’s discretion. The Court is also not required to order overnight visitation or visitation outside of the parent’s presence.
Contact a Palatine, Illinois Family Law Attorney
As grandparents, Illinois does grant you certain rights when it comes to visitation with your grandchildren. However, it can be difficult to exercise that right because of the law’s presumption that the parent’s decision to withhold visitation is valid. Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C., to help guide you through the process and help you fight to preserve this precious relationship.