Grandparents’ Rights in Illinois
Many grandparents and parents are familiar with the term “grandparents’ rights,” but do not fully understand it as a concept. It does not mean that grandparents automatically have the right to spend time with their grandchildren or seek custody of them by the virtue of being grandparents. What it means is that under certain specific circumstances, grandparents have the right to petition the court for visitation with their grandchild. Grandparents’ rights vary from state to state, but they exist in some form in every state. They are an important part of family law, the legal area that governs family relationships.
Circumstances Under Which Grandparents can Sue for Visitation with a Child
In Illinois, grandparents may file petitions for visitation with their grandchildren if an “unreasonable denial of visitation” has occurred. This could be in conjunction with a child’s parents’ divorce, the issuance of a parenting plan, or because there is a reason why the parent through whom the grandparent would access the child cannot facilitate their relationship. This could be because the child’s parent is incarcerated, deceased, legally incompetent, or has been reported as missing to law enforcement. Typically, it is easier for grandparents to be granted visitation rights when one of the child’s parents is unavailable to maintain their relationship with the child.
When both parents are present in a child’s life, a grandparent may seek visitation when the parents are separated, divorced, or in the process of divorcing if at least one of the parents does not object to the grandparent having visitation. If both object, the grandparent’s request is denied.
In order to have court-ordered visitation with a grandparent, a child must be at least one year old.
The Harm Standard and the Child’s Best Interest
When a grandparent files a petition for visitation in Illinois, the grandparent must demonstrate that being denied a relationship with the child has caused the child to suffer emotional, mental, or physical harm. This is known as the harm standard.
Additionally, the court must determine that visitation between the grandparent and the child is in the child’s best interest. To determine this, the court considers a set of factors that include:
- The child’s preference;
- Whether the grandparent’s petition was made in good faith;
- How having visitation would impact the child’s everyday routine;
- The grandparent’s physical and mental health; and
- The child’s physical and mental health.
The court must also consider whether the grandparent has had frequent, regular contact with the child over the past 12 months and whether he or she acted as the child’s primary caregiver either while residing with the child or in separate residences.
Work with an Experienced Family Lawyer
If you are a grandparent seeking court-ordered time with your grandchild, work with an experienced Kane County family lawyer to exercise your rights. Contact our team at Shaw Family Law, P.C. today to schedule your initial legal consultation with us. We can answer any questions you have and determine the next steps for your case given your current circumstances. Call us today at 630-584-5550.