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To Grandmother's House We Go: Grandparent Visitation Rights

When the relationship between mother and father becomes strained, grandparents often get caught up in the tension. Sometimes this results in a parent refusing to allow a grandparent to spend time with the child. While there is a general presumption that parents know best when it comes to visitation, there are exceptions. In Illinois, grandparents are permitted to request that the court allow them visitation with their grandchild. Keep in mind that a grandparent's demand to see his or her grandchild, against the parents wishes, is a privilege and not a right. This means the court may not recognize grandparent visitation rights if it sees fit.

How to Seek Visitation

Visitation can mean face-to-face interaction between grandparent and grandchild, or it can simply mean communication by phone, email, or text message. The process of seeking visitation with a grandchild begins with a petition to the court. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a grandparent must show that he or she has been unreasonably denied visitation; essentially that he or she is not harmful to the child. Additionally, a grandparent must show at least one of the following:

  • The parent is deceased or has been missing for at least three months;
  • The parent has been deemed legally incompetent;
  • The parents are divorced or separated and one of the parents does not object to grandparent visitation; or
  • The parents were not married at the child's birth and the petitioner is a maternal or paternal grandparent.

If one of these factors is established, the court will evaluate whether visitation is in the child's best interest. Unless it is proven otherwise, Illinois courts assume that the parents' decisions regarding visitation is in the best interest of the child. Thus, it can be difficult for a grandparent to be awarded visitation rights.

Revocation of Visitation Rights

The situation of a parent refusing to allow a grandparent to spend time with his or her grandchild can arise in many different situations. For example, where one parent has had parental rights terminated, the custodial parent may be hesitant to let the grandparents of that parent visit with the child. If the grandparents do allow the non-custodial parent to visit with the child during “grandparent visitation,” their rights could be permanently revoked. Termination of parental rights is done by court order and therefore it would be a violation of court order to try to abuse grandparent visitation in this manner.

If you are a grandparent seeking to establish or continue a relationship with your grandchild and you are facing difficulties, contact our experienced Naperville family law attorneys today. We understand how important family relationships are and how strained relations can take a toll on your life. Our experienced team is ready and able to help you repair these family ties today.

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