Illinois Grandparents Visitation Rights

Pursuant to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, grandparents and great-grandparents may petition for visitation rights of a child who is one year old or older regardless of whether the parents of the child are in a divorce. A pending divorce or custody case is not required. Rather, the grandparent may file an independent action in the county in which the child resides.

In order to obtain visitation rights, a grandparent or great-grandparent must meet two requirements:

  • The grandparent or great-grandparent must be unreasonably denied visitation by a parent of the child; and
  • One of the following statements is true:
    • A parent is mentally incompetent or
    • A parent is dead or has been missing for three months or
    • A parent has been in jail for three consecutive months or
    • The child’s mother and father are divorced or have been legally separated from each other or there is pending a dissolution proceeding involving a parent of the child or another court proceeding involving custody or visitation of the child (other than any adoption proceeding of an unrelated child) during the 3 month period prior to the filing of the petition and at least one parent does not object to the grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling having visitation with the child or
    • The child is born out of wedlock, the parents are not living together the petitioner is a maternal or paternal grandparent or great-grandparent of the child

In determining whether or not to grant visitation, the court shall consider the following factors:

  • the preference of the child if the child if determined to be of sufficient maturity to express a preference;
  • the mental and physical health of the child;
  • the mental and physical health of the grandparent or great-grandparent;
  • the length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the grandparent or great-grandparent;
  • the good faith of the party in filing the petition;
  • the good faith of the person denying visitation;
  • the quantity of the visitation time requested and the potential adverse impact that visitation would have on the child’s customary activities;
  • whether the child resided with the petitioner for at least 6 consecutive months with or without the current custodian present;
  • whether the petitioner had frequent or regular contact or visitation with the child for at least 12 consecutive months;
  • any other fact that establishes that the loss of the relationship between the petitioner and the child is likely to harm the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health; and
  • whether the grandparent or great-grandparent, was a primary caretaker of the child for a period of not less than 6 consecutive months.

The law assumes that a parent can and does make decisions that are in the best interest of the child. Therefore, there is a rebuttable presumption that a fit parent’s actions and decisions regarding grandparent and great-grandparent visitation are not harmful to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health. The burden to prove otherwise is on the grandparent or great-grandparent filing a petition under the Grandparent Visitation laws in Illinois. If the parents deny grandparent visitation, it is up to the grandparent and their attorney to show that it is in the best interest of the child for the grandparent to be in the child’s life.

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