Most families are made up of more than just parents and children. Grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and others can all be vital parts of a family's structure. When parents split up and custody is primarily granted to one parent, it can be difficult for extended family members to continue to have contact with the children, particularly if parents do not get along. Often, relatives like grandparents are curious as to whether or not they have any rights to visitation.
Do Illinois Grandparents Have a Right to Visitation?
In Illinois, grandparents do not have a “right” to visitation. Instead, grandparent visitation is considered a privilege. That being said, under some circumstances, Illinois law allows grandparents to petition for and receive visitation opportunities. Under this law, visitation means “in-person time.”
The court has discretion over whether or not visitation is granted. In order to obtain visitation, you will have to convince a judge that denying visitation would be mentally or physically harmful to a child. Therefore, grandparents who have played a major role in the children’s lives have a better chance of obtaining visitation. Additionally, a grandparent has to show that he or she is being unreasonably denied visitation by a child’s parent.
What are the Steps to Obtaining Grandparent Visitation?
Ideally, grandparents and parents would be able to work out visitation issues informally amongst themselves, or perhaps with the help of a trained neutral mediator. When that does not work, the next step would be for the grandparents to file a petition for visitation with the court. If grandparents and parents cannot reach some sort of agreement there will eventually be a bench trial—a trial where a judge makes the ultimate decision (as opposed to a jury trial like you see in criminal cases).
At that trial, both sides will have an opportunity to put on evidence, and it will be up to the grandparents to prove that they should be granted visitation. If the parent who has custody is considered a fit parent, then the judge will comply with the parent’s wishes regarding grandparent visitation unless the grandparents can show that the lack of visitation is actually harmful to the child or children. This is a very high burden.
Call Sullivan Taylor & Gumina, P.C.
If you are fighting to have visitation rights with an important child in your life, you will need the help of a passionate and experienced Illinois family law attorney. Please call the child visitation lawyers at Sullivan Taylor & Gumina, P.C. We will do all that we can to help you preserve your relationship with this important child. Call our office today at (630) 756-5112 to schedule an appointment.