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Grandparents are frequently overlooked in the divorce process, but conflicts between a child’s parents and changes to a child’s schedule can seriously impact the quality of the relationship between grandparents and their grandchild. Prior to divorce or separation, grandparents are often deeply involved in their grandchild’s life, and a sudden separation from a grandparent may cause harm to a grandchild’s emotional and mental health.
Unlike parents, grandparents are not automatically presumed to have the right to visitation or parenting time with their grandchild. If one parent has full custody rights, formally known as parental responsibilities, they may prevent the parents of their ex from visiting the child. Grandparents who want the right to visitation with their grandchild must prove in court that a lack of visitation would harm the child.
Parents are presumed under Illinois law to make decisions that are in the best interest of their child, including when they choose not to allow grandparents or any other non-parent to spend time with the child. Grandparents must prove that denying visitation is unreasonable and emotionally harmful to the child. The court will consider a grandparent’s petition for visitation rights if one of the following conditions are met:
The child’s parents are divorced or separated and one parent does not object to grandparent visitation
The child’s parents are unmarried and not living together
One of the parents has died
One of the parents has been missing or in jail for 90 days
One of the parents has been deemed legally incompetent to care for the child
During a court hearing on visitation rights, grandparents will need to prove that they have a close, ongoing relationship with their grandchild. Illinois law requires courts to consider the following:
Has the child lived with the grandparents for at least six months?
Have the grandparents been the child’s primary caregivers for at least six months?
Did the child regularly visit and communicate with the grandparents in the time prior to the visits ending?
If they are mature and able to express themselves competently, does the child have a preference regarding visitation?
Why does the custodial parent want to deny visitation?
Can the visitation be structured in such a way so as to minimize the child’s exposure to conflict between the adults?
Court decisions regarding a grandparent’s right to visit are legally binding and cannot be changed for at least two years following the visitation order unless there is reason to believe the current order endangers the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health.
The attorneys with Martoccio & Martoccio family law know that a child’s relationship with their grandparents is important. We understand that divorce and child custody disputes can impact grandparents in ways that are often overlooked. If you want to petition the court for grandparent visitation, speak to a Hinsdale family law attorney. Call us today at 630-920-8855 for a confidential consultation.