As the most trusted family law attorney Belleville Illinois has to offer, people often tell us how they are touched by divorce and the painful child custody situations that surround it. We are often approached with issues concerning grandparents rights in Illinois.
The relationship between grandparent and grandchild has almost always been a very special one and when issues such as distance, divorce, separation and death occur, the pain of the severed relationship can fill both the grandchild and the grandparent with a feeling of longing and grief. Thus, it is understandable that the issue of protecting this relationship comes up often.
The Illinois Grandparent Visitation Act dictates grandparents rights Illinois. We link to it in the previous sentence so that if you are a grandparent seeking visitation or hoping to file a petition to take on the role as primary caretaker to your grandchild you can read the Act yourself as a primary source to better understand what hurtles you must clear in order to receive visitation with the child.
Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in Illinois
To begin petitioning for visitation in the Illinois court system, a grandparent must demonstrate that they have unreasonably been denied visitation by the child’s parent or parents and that one of the following items applies to their situation.
- A parent is incompetent to raise the child;
- The child’s parent is dead or has been missing for three or more consecutive months;
- A parent has been incarcerated for at least three months;
- The child’s parents are divorced, legally separated or their marriage is pending dissolution and at least one parent has no objection to the grandparent having visitation with the child;
- The child was born out of wedlock and the parents do not reside together.
Illinois courts assume that the parent’s decision about visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interest. Any challenge to this asking the courts to grant visitation require satisfaction of a significant burden of proof on behalf of the petitioning grandparent and the first step in this process likely involves consultation with a family law attorney.
Further, as the law states, a petition for visitation may be filed only if there has been an unreasonable denial of visitation by a parent and if it can be shown that the denial of visitation will cause undue harm to the child’s mental, physical or emotional health. This can be more difficult that is sounds.
In determining whether or not to grant the grandparent (or, according to the law, an adult sibling of the child) visitation, the courts will also take into consideration the following:
- the wishes of the child depending on the child’s maturity and ability to express preference;
- the mental and physical health of the child;
- the length and quality of the relationship with the petitioning party;
- the good faith of the party filing the petition and of the person denying visitation;
- the quantity of requested visitation time and the potential effects of this on the child;
- any other facts establishing how the loss of the relationship might adversely affect the child
In summary, in Illinois grandparents do have limited legal rights to visitation with their grandchildren especially in situations of divorce. Generally, the courts respect the parents’ decisions concerning who shall spend time with their children.
Only grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings or step-parents have a recognized right to petition for a court order to spend time with a child.
In situations where parents have been taken out of abusive homes by the Department of Children and Family Services, there are options for grandparents to petition for legal guardianship of their grandchildren. But this is seen as a permanent solution to situations where there is no hope of reuniting child and biological parent.
Learn more about child custody or, as it’s now legally referred to, parental responsibility allocation.
If you have further questions about Divorce, Custody, Child Support or any other family law matters, contact the attorneys at Wilson, Dabler & Associates, LLC. 618-235-1600