How do Illinois judges determine grandparent visitation?
One area of family law that has seen a lot of change and involvement in the last decade is the area of grandparent visitation. Grandparent visitation in Illinois is governed by Section 607 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Grandparents are permitted to petition for visitation with their grandchildren by filing a case in the circuit court of the county where the children reside. They may also file a petition for grandparent visitation and/or any electronic communication rights within the parents’ divorce case or any other court case involving custody of the children.
There are two threshold requirements that must be satisfied before a grandparent petitions for visitation. One is that the children at issue must be at least one year old. The other is that one of the children’s parents must be unreasonably denying the grandparent time with the children. If these two requirements are satisfied, then the grandparent must be able to show that one of the following conditions exists:
A. That the children’s other parent is deceased or has been missing for at least three months,
B. That one of the children’s parents is incompetent, or
C. That the children’s parents are divorced, are in the process of getting divorced, are legally separated, or are parties to a custody dispute, andthat one of the children’s parents does not object to the grandparent having visitation with the children.
Once one of these conditions is met, the Court will next look to the particular facts of the case. The burden is always on the grandparent to show that the parent’s refusal to allow the grandparent to spend time with the children is harmful to the children. This can be a difficult hurdle to overcome because in Illinois, there is a presumption that a parent’s decisions and actions regarding his/her own children spending time with a grandparent are not harmful. If the grandparent is able to rebut that presumption, then the Court will most likely grant visitation when taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case. The Court will look to the preferences of the children (if the children are of sufficient maturity), the physical and mental health of the children, the physical and mental health of the grandparent, the relationship between the children and the grandparent, whether the children ever lived with the grandparent, and whether the children have had frequent contact with the grandparent during their lives, as well as several other factors affecting the children’s best interests.
At The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., we excel in helping our clients obtain visitation with their grandchildren and negotiating a visitation schedule that meets the parents’, grandparents’, and the children’s needs and interests. Regardless of the hurdles that grandparents often face when seeking visitation through the court system, we have the experience and resources necessary to obtain favorable results for our clients.