A person’s right to have custody or visitation with a child depends on their relationship to the child. The parent-child relationship is special because certain rights and obligations arise from that relationship. This includes a parent’s right to limit the child’s exposure to other family members. However, a child’s siblings, grandparents, and stepparents also may have a right to spend time the child. When the rights of parents and nonparents conflict about spending time with a child, Illinois law can intervene to resolve the issue.
Visitation Rights in General
The term “visitation rights” strictly applies to nonparents. Until a few years ago, visitation generally referred to the right of noncustodial parents and nonparents to spend time with a minor child. However, the enactment of Public Act 99-90 replaced the term “visitation rights” with “parenting time” regarding a noncustodial parent’s right to spend time with their child. As a result, the term “visitation” was relegated to situations where nonparents requested time with a child. The change in terminology reflected the notion that parents aren’t merely visitors with respect to their own children; only friends and relatives are.
Courts are required to consider the following factors when determining nonparent visitation rights:
- The child’s wishes
- The child’s physical and mental health
- The nonparent’s physical and mental health
- The strength of the relationship between the child and nonparent
- The nonparent’s good faith in making the visitation request
- The good faith in denying visitation requests
- The amount of requested visitation time, and the negative effect it would have on a child’s routine
- Other factors demonstrating that the loss in the relationship between the nonparent and child would harm the child’s physical and mental wellbeing
- The ability to structure visitation to minimize the child’s exposure to conflicts between adults
Grandparent, Great-Grandparent, Stepparents, and Siblings
Under Section 602.9 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, grandparents, great-parents, siblings and stepparents can petition the court seeking visitation time with a child pending divorce proceedings involving the child’s parents. Parents have a say regarding nonparent visitation with their child and may deny visitation requests from grandparents, great-grandparents, stepparents, and siblings. However, a request for court-ordered visitation is appropriate “if there has been an unreasonable denial of visitation by a parent and the denial has caused the child undue mental, physical, or emotional harm to the child.”
Special circumstances where a visitation denial would cause undue harm to a child include:
- One of the child’s parents has died or been missing for 90 days
- A child’s parent was deemed legally incompetent
- A child’s parent has been in prison for more than 90 days
- The child’s parents are divorced, separated, or unmarried, and one of the parents does not object to the visitation request
Visitation of Same-Sex Partners
At the turn of the century, courts held that same-sex partners were not entitled to visitation privileges because statutes did not recognize that right at the time. However, after Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex partners of the child’s biological parents could now exercise the right to petition for visitation privileges with regard to their partner’s child. Illinois now law defines “step-parent” to mean “a person married to a child’s parent, including a person married to the child’s parent immediately prior to the parent’s death.” Therefore, same-sex partners who were married to a child’s parent qualify as stepparents under Illinois law.
Ask a Skilled Attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, PC
Are you a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling or stepparent of a child whose parents are unreasonably denying you visitation time? If so, you should contact an attorney at the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, PC with experience handling nonparent visitation cases. We are committed to making sure your right to visit a child is protected, especially when the loss of your relationship would cause undue harm to the child.
To schedule a free phone consultation about your case, call us at (312) 487-2795 or contact us online today.