Grandparent Visitation Explained

Oftentimes, in cases where a child’s parents no longer resume a relationship for one reason or another, the resulting separation brings up implications not only for the parents in regards to their relationship with the child, but also for the extended family members on both sides. Parents are not the only ones who can look to the courts to set parameters for child custody and visitation. Grandparents also have the right to seek visitation under certain circumstances. While the burden of proof is greater in a grandparent visitation case, Illinois law sets out the standards that must be met in order to award a petitioning grandparent visitation rights with their minor grandchild.

In order for a grandparent to bring a petition for visitation of a minor, they must be unreasonably denied visitation by the minor’s parent, and another of the following conditions must exist:

  • One of the child’s parents is absent;
  • The child’s parents are divorced, legally separated, or there is a divorce proceeding pending, and at least one parent does not object to the grandparent visitation;
  • The child’s parents were never married, are not living together, and, in the case of paternal grandparents, the paternity of the child has been established by the appropriate court.

In order to be successful in their petition, the grandparent must meet the burden of proving that the parent’s denial of visitation is harmful to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health. It is up to the court to determine if the burden has been met. In making this determination, the court considers various factors, including:

  • The preference of the child;
  • When appropriate, the mental and physical health of the grandparent and the child;
  • The nature of their prior relationship;
  • The intentions of the petitioning grandparent and responding parent;
  • The visitation requesting and the impact it would have on the child’s daily routine;
  • Whether the child ever resided with the grandparent for at least six (6) consecutive months;
  • Whether the grandparent had ever been the child’s primary caretaker for a period of at least six (6) months;
  • Whether the grandparent and child had frequent or routine contact for twelve (12) consecutive months, and
  • Any fact that would establish the loss of the grandparent-grandchild relationship would result in mental, emotional, or physical harm.

Grandparent visitation can be a sensitive topic, especially in cases of a deteriorated relationship between grandparent and parent, or in cases where there is suspicion of domestic violence or abuse. If you are a grandparent of a minor child and are being denied visitation, you can contact an Illinois family law attorney to discuss your case. The attorneys at Sullivan, Taylor & Gumina P.C., are prepared to answer your questions regarding visitation and advise you of your rights. Contact us today.