When parents split up, the grandparents of the child rarely get any voice in the process of determining custody. However, the relationship between a child and a grandparent can play an important part in the healthy development of the child. In Illinois, grandparents do not have a right to visitation with their grandchildren. However, the law does give them the privilege of visitation.
Who Can Request Visitation?
The privilege of visitation means that grandparents can go to court and request visitation; however, a judge is not required to give it to the grandparents. Siblings and great-grandparents are also allowed to seek visitation privileges.
When the court is making a determination about visitation, it will look to the best interests of the child. However, if the parent with residential custody is found to be a fit parent, a court will often defer to the parent’s judgment about visitation.
The legal standard the court will apply in grandparent visitation cases is that the court must find that denying visitation will harm the child mentally or physically, and that visitation with the grandparents is being unreasonably withheld by a parent.
Grandparent visitation cannot be used as a way to get around parenting time restrictions on one of the parents. If a court finds this is happening, a judge may permanently ban visitation between the grandparents and the child.
The Process for Seeking Visitation
Grandparents who wish to establish visitation should try and work out a plan with the residential parent before heading to court. Judges often do not look favorably on people who use the courts as a first attempt instead of a last resort. If you are not able to work out an agreement, grandparents, siblings, or great-grandparents can file a petition for visitation with the court. Typically, the petition needs to be filed in the same county where any custody orders were signed.
Before the court will hold a full trial on the petition, it will make every effort to settle the dispute. The court may order an evaluation and recommend mediation. The court will hold a pretrial conference as a final attempt to forge an agreement.
If the issues cannot be settled, a full trial with evidence and testimony may be conducted. The burden will be on the petitioner, the one seeking visitation, to prove why the court should order visitation.
If you have been excluded from the lives of your grandchildren, please contact a DuPage County family law lawyer who can advise you on your legal options. Call 630-665-7676 to schedule your appointment today.