As a grandparent, you share in the joy of your grandchild?s birth and you enjoy countless hours playing with them and watching them grow. A grandchild is often his or her grandparent?s greatest blessing, but when trouble between parents results in grandparents not being allowed to spend time with their grandchildren, it can be heartbreaking. Circumstances like divorce, the death or absence of a parent, or drug or alcohol abuse by a parent can lead to strained relationships.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act
Grandparents do not have automatic visitation rights in Illinois. However, Illinois lawmakers recognize how important the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can be. From 2005 to 2007, amendments were made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which allowed grandparents in Illinois to petition for visitation rights with a grandchild who is at least one year old. Circumstances under which grandparents are allowed to petition for visitation rights include:
- The child’s parents are divorced or legally separated.
- The parents are not living together.
- A parent is dead or missing for three months.
- A parent is incarcerated for at least three months before seeking visitation rights.
- A parent is judged legally incompetent.
Determining the Best Interest of the Child
The primary focus of a judge in these cases is to determine what is in the best interest of the child. The judge will also consider the reason parents are denying visitation. In the process of determining whether or not to grant grandparent visitation rights, Illinois courts will review and consider the following:
- Has the grandparent been denied visitation?
- What is grandchild?s preference regarding visitation with the grandparent?
- The mental and physical health of the child.
- The mental and physical health of the grandparent.
- The quality of the existing relationship between the child and the grandparent.
- Has the child ever lived with the grandparent? Has the grandparent ever been the primary caretaker of the child?
- How frequently has the grandparent visited with the child in the previous year?
- Is the grandparent requesting visitation in good faith?
- Is the parent denying visitation in good faith?
- Has there been an unreasonable denial of visitation?
- What impact does the grandparent?s requested visitation time have on the child?s schedule?
- Any other information illustrating that that the child will be damaged emotionally or physically by terminating the relationship between the grandparent and the child.
Most family courts, including Illinois family courts, assume that parents are making the best decision regarding grandparent visitation rights. Obtaining grandparent visitation rights is a challenging, time-consuming, and often confusing process. Family relationships in visitation situations are already under pressure, often causing a breakdown in communication, which makes the situation even more difficult.
Seeking Legal Counsel for Grandparent Visitation Rights
While Illinois law has changed for the better regarding grandparent visitation, child custody-related issues are seldom simple. If you or someone you know needs help, we encourage you to seek expert legal counsel regarding grandparent visitation rights. Sherer Law Firm is experienced and dedicated to protecting families and looking out for the best interests of children. Please contact us today for more information on grandparent visitation rights.