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Do You Have a Right to See Your Grandchildren?

 Posted on February 27, 2018 in Family Law Blog

Illinois family attorneyGrandparents are an integral part of the family, but they have limited legal rights when it comes to visiting their grandchildren. Grandparent visitation often becomes an issue when parents divorce. The custodial parent generally has the right to decide who spends time with the child, and he or she might not want the child spending time with the other parent’s side of the family. In that case, do the grandparents - and other non-parent family members - have any legal options?

Non-Parent Visitation Rights Under Illinois Law

Illinois law provides limited protections to grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, and stepparents seeking visitation time with a child. The law defines “visitation” as “in-person time” with the child, but it can also include electronic communication such as texting and talking on the phone. (Note that “siblings” include half-siblings and stepsiblings.)

These family members may file a petition seeking visitation rights with a child who is at least one year old if the parent has unreasonably denied visitation and “the denial has caused the child undue mental, physical, or emotional harm.” There is a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s decision is not harmful to the child, and the non-parent must prove that it will actually cause the child undue harm. The court will consider the following factors when determining whether to grant visitation:

  • The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough to express reasoned preferences;
  • The child’s physical and mental health;
  • The non-parent’s physical and mental health;
  • The good faith of the non-parent in filing the petition and the good faith of the parent in denying visitation;
  • How much visitation the non-parent is requesting; and
  • The quality and length of the relationship between the child and the non-parent. For example, a court might not grant visitation rights to a stepparent who has only been in the child’s life for a short time.

The court will consider any other relevant factor concerning the relationship between the child and non-parent and whether visitation can be structured in a way that minimizes conflict between the parent and non-parent.

In addition to an unreasonable visitation denial, at least one of the following conditions must also exist:

  • The other parent is deceased or has been missing for at least 90 days.
  • Either of the child’s parents is incompetent.
  • Either of the child’s parents is in jail.
  • The child’s parents are divorced or legally separated and at least one parent does not object to the visitation.
  • The child was born to unmarried parents who do not live together and the petitioner seeking visitation is a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling or stepparent.

There are additional procedures involved in a petition for visitation rights. An experienced attorney can walk you through this process.

Contact Us Today for Assistance

The passionate DuPage County family law attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. can help you petition for visitation rights with your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, siblings or stepchildren if you have been denied time with them. Contact us today for a free consultation.



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