The issue of grandparent’s visitation rights has been something of a moving target over the last few decades, and laws differ between states. Here’s what you need to know if you are a grandparent needing help to get visitation with your grandchild.
Do grandparents have visitation rights in Illinois? While the state of Illinois has recognized that extended family members often play a large role in a child’s life, their rights to see their grandchild/grandchildren is far more complicated. The courts almost always favor leaving children in the care of their biological parents. However, in cases where a parent is incapable or doesn’t want to take care of their children, a grandparent can petition for custody.
Overview of Grandparent Visitation Laws
Visitation is when a person who is not the parent of a child spends time with that child. Visitation used to include time spent by a parent with a child, but that is now legally called parenting time. In Illinois, there are no federal laws governing visitation rights for grandparents. However, depending on family dynamics, Illinois grandparents do have a limited legal right to visit their grandchildren, especially if the parents are divorced.
In general, it is up to the parents of a child to decide who can spend time with that child. But sometimes a non-parent can get a court order to force the parents to let them spend time with a child if the child is at least one year old.
Only the following people can get a court order for visitation with a child:
- Brother or Sister
To obtain parenting time rights in Illinois, grandparents must meet the following requirements:
- Show that they have been unreasonably denied parenting time by a parent of the grandchild
- Show that one of the following statements is true:
- A parent is incompetent.
- A parent has been dead or missing for at least three months.
- A parent has been incarcerated for at least three months.
- The child’s parents are divorced or legally separated, or there is a pending dissolution or custody proceeding, and at least one parent has no objection.
- The child is born out of wedlock and the parents are not living together.
The court will then review:
- The grandchild’s preference
- The grandparents’ intentions in seeking parenting time
- Whether the denial of parenting time has been in good faith
- The closeness of the relationship between the child and the grandparents
- Whether the time requested might have a damaging effect on the child’s regular activities
- Whether the child lived with the grandparent or the grandparent was the primary caretaker of the child for at least six consecutive months
- The frequency of contact for at least one year
- The mental and physical health of the child
- The physical and mental well-being of the grandparents
Gaining Custody for Grandparents
It is possible for a grandparent to obtain custody of a grandchild. The first way is through petitioning the court for custody of the grandchildren. Both parents of the child must voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to the child unless there is another issue like abuse. Parents may give up the rights to their children for many deeply personal reasons such as addiction or mental health issues. Other times, very young parents relinquish their parental rights so that a grandparent or grandparents can adopt the child.
The second way grandparents can be awarded custody of their grandchildren if the biological parents have been found to be abusive or neglectful to the child. The Department of Children and Family Services oversees children who are taken from abusive homes. There is also an option for grandparents to become the legal guardian of a child called “Private Subsidized Guardianship.” This permanent measure is usually reserved for situations in which there is no hope of reuniting the child with his or her biological parents.
Adoption and Grandparents’ Rights
In most situations, adoption severs ties between a child and biological family members, including grandparents. Any visitation orders entered before a child’s adoption will automatically terminate when an adoption is finalized.
Even in the case of a stepparent adoption, grandparent visitation isn’t a given; Grandparents can bring a visitation petition in the case of a stepparent adoption, but the grandparent must still demonstrate that the lack of visitation would harm the child. In many cases, it’s difficult for a grandparent to meet that burden.
Grandparents have a unique place in a child’s life, and being refused visitation can bring anguish on both the grandparents and more importantly, the child. If you have been denied the right to see your grandchild, you should speak with the experienced attorneys at Masters Law Group. Based in downtown Chicago, we represent grandparents who are facing the stressful and highly emotional facing matters of child visitation and related issues.
Contact us here today and we will protect your rights as a grandparent and provide you with the representation you need to achieve the best results.