General Principles of Child Custody & Visitation
When a child’s parents separate or get divorced, the question of accommodating their wishes and ability to separately and distinctly ensure care of their child is one of the most significant issues in family law cases. Courts are responsible for determining the future custody arrangement between the parties and their child after divorce—a decision that could potentially have a profound impact on the child’s entire life.
Given the stakes involved in child custody cases, courts determine such issues based on concern for the child’s health, safety, and welfare. A court must evaluate what type of custody arrangement best promotes or protects the minor child’s interests.
If the court decides that one parent should have primary custody, the other “noncustodial” parent still has the right to spend time and bond with their child—also known as “visitation or parenting time rights.” Typically, the parties will reach an agreement allowing the noncustodial parent to spend time with their child on a specific schedule.
Similarly, a grandparent’s right to spend time with their grandchildren may also come into play in certain situations.
Illinois Law on Grandparent Visitation
Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act § 602.9 establish visitation rights for “nonparents.” Section 602.9 provides that “visitation” means “in-person time spent between a child and the child’s grandparent, great-grandparent…” In some instances, visitation can also refer to communication using digital or electronic means under certain conditions and times prescribed by the court.
Sometimes the expectations of a child’s parents or guardians and the child’s grandparents might come into conflict concerning the extent of their visitation rights. Although the interests of the child’s natural or legal parents may not completely align with those of their grandparents, the law provides grandparents with relief in cases where visitation was unreasonably denied to them.
Grandparents can sue a child’s parents or guardians if there was an unreasonable denial of visitation that ultimately resulted in undue harm to the child, particularly in the following cases:
- The child’s parents are not married to each other
- The child’s parents are not living together
- The parent-child relationship was legally established
A grandparent can override the parents’ decisions regarding visitation if they can prove that the parent’s decisions harm the child’s health.
Additionally, courts must consider the following factors when determining the appropriateness of grandparent visitation:
- The child’s wishes in light of their age and maturity
- The child’s physical and mental health
- The grandparent’s physical and mental health
- The extent and quality of the relationship between the child and their grandparents
- The petitioner’s good faith
- The respondent’s good faith
- How much visitation time is requested, and the negative impact it may have
- If visitation could be structured to prevent the child from being exposed to conflict between adults
Reach Out to the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, PC
Child custody issues are among the most serious matters in family law proceedings. To make sure your custody or visitation rights as a parent or grandparent are protected, you should call an experienced family law attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. today.