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What Rights Do Grandparents Have in an Illinois Divorce?

 Posted on July 01, 2019 in Family Law

Cook County family law attorney

In a divorce that involves children, not only is the couple breaking up, but the family unit is separating, too. This can affect the extended family, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Grandparents in particular can be devastated by the news of a divorce, especially if they helped in caring for their grandchildren or saw them on a regular basis. Typically, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time are decided in court during the divorce proceedings. However, the special bond that exists between grandparents and their grandkids should not be overlooked during a divorce. Illinois law has several provisions that address the rights of grandparents depending on the situation.   

What Is in the Best Interests of the Child? 

In general, the parents of a child have the right to choose who can spend time with that child. According to Illinois law, a grandparent (or another relative, such as a sibling or great-grandparent) may file a petition asking for court-ordered visitation (which may include some form of electronic communication) with a child who is one year old or older. This visitation can include overnight visits. Grandchild visitation may be requested if one of the parents unreasonably denies a request for visitation, and any of the following are true: 

  • The parents are divorced, and one parent agrees to the request for visitation.

  • The parents never married, and one of the parents of the child is the grandparent’s legal child.

  • The other parent is deceased.

  • The other parent is in jail or has been reported missing for three months.

  • A parent has been found to be unfit.

Illinois law presumes that a parent’s choices about visitation between their child and the child’s grandparent are “not harmful to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.” Therefore, the grandparent has to prove in court that his or her absence in the grandchild’s life is harming the child. The court will review the circumstances of each case and consider several factors when ultimately deciding about grandparents’ time with the child such as:

  • The child’s preference (depending on the maturity level of the child) 

  • The child’s physical and mental health/state of mind

  • The grandparent’s physical and mental health/state of mind

  • The length and quality of the grandparent-grandchild relationship

  • The intentions of all the adults involved 

  • The amount of time requested and if it would disrupt the child’s schedule

  • If the child lived with the grandparent for a minimum of six consecutive months

  • If the grandparent had ongoing contact with the child for a minimum of 12 consecutive months

Contact a Cook County Family Law Attorney

A divorce can break up more than just an immediate family. It can be very difficult for grandparents who played active roles in their grandkids’ lives. The experienced legal team at Wakenight and Associates, P.C. has helped many families deal with child-related issues during and after divorce. For guidance in maintaining a positive relationship with your grandchildren, contact a compassionate Oak Park grandparents’ rights lawyer today at 708-480-9651.



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