The effects of a divorce or family separation on the life of a child can be rather significant. Often, the child must adapt to a new schedule of spending time with the important people in his or life, including aunts, uncles, cousins, and, in some cases, even siblings. What about grandparents? It is reasonable for one to think that grandparents must have some sort of rights to visitation with their grandchildren, due to a direct blood relationship through either biological parent. However, such an assumption would not be entirely correct; instead visitation for grandparents in Illinois is considered a privilege that may be granted by the court and not an inherent right.
A parent in Illinois who is not granted custody of his or her child, is granted reasonable rights to visitation. These rights are retained by the non-custodial parent until they are voluntarily relinquished or revoked by an action of the court. Revocation of visitation rights is a serious matter, and is only applied in the most dire situations of child endangerment. Otherwise, the court will generally restrict or limit visitation of a non-custodial parent in the best interest of the child.
Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, grandparents, great-grandparents, and siblings are permitted to petition the court for visitation privileges when they are being unreasonably denied visitation by a parent. The law also requires the child to be at least one year old and that one of the following situations is applicable:
- The child’s other parent is deceased or has been missing or incarcerated for at least three months;
- A parent has been deemed unfit;
- The parents are divorced, legally separated, or in the process of such, and at least one parent does not object to the grandparent, et al. visiting with the child; or
- The child’s parents were never married.
In considering grandparent visitation, the court is required to take into account the wishes of the child, as appropriate, the health of both the child and petitioner, the prior-existing relationship between the petitioner and child, the likelihood of a healthy relationship continuing, and the good faith of both the petitioner and the parent denying visitation. The good faith of both parties is particular important, as the court is tasked with determining whether the initial denial of visitation was truly unreasonable. In addition, grandparent visitation has been used in some cases in an effort to circumvent limited visitation by the non-custodial parent, a situation that could be potentially dangerous to the child.
If you have been unreasonably denied visitation with your grandchild or sibling and are considering petitioning the court, contact an experienced Joliet family law attorney. At Kezy & Associates, we are sensitive to the needs of extended family members, and understand how important healthy family relationships are. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation. We will review your case and help you understand your options under the law.