Custody, Visitation And Other Family Law Rights For Grandparents In Illinois
Do grandparents or great-grandparents have rights to visitation? Do grandparents and other relatives have standing to seek custody? These are complicated and hotly debated issues that have reached the U.S. Supreme Court. A better way to understand the law is to frame the question from another perspective — is it in the best interests of the grandchildren to have Grandma and Grandpa involved in their life?
The courts have expressed grave concerns about imposing visitation over the objections of fit parents. Nevertheless, Illinois law does grant visitation and custody rights to grandparents under specific circumstances. The attorneys of the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd., have experience with these complex and contentious family law disputes. Through our deliberate approach to these delicate matters, we have had marked success advocating for grandparents and other family members who are seeking visitation, as well as custody. We understand that you are devoted to your grandchildren and their well-being, and we will skillfully assert your rights in these sensitive situations to preserve your relationship.
“We live in society where grandparents often spend more time with small children than their parents do. When the divorce happens, however, the situation may change. As a result, a variation on the typical divorce war ensues.”
— Jeffery M. Leving, in Divorce Wars
When Can Grandparents Receive Visitation?
The U. S. Supreme Court decision in Troxel v. Granville in 2000 forced courts and legislatures around the country to recognize the implications for the fundamental rights of parents if grandparents are granted visitation over their objections. On the other hand, the courts have also recognized the important role that grandparents play in the lives of many children. For these reasons, Illinois law provides for sibling and grandparent access (visitation) only when (a) the subject child is at least one year old, (b) after there has been an unreasonable denial of access by a parent and (c) under one of the following circumstances:
- One of the child’s parents is deceased or missing for at least three months.
- One of the child’s parents is adjudged legally incompetent.
- One of the child’s parents has been incarcerated for at least three months.
- The parents are divorced, divorcing, separated or currently involved in a child custody action, and at least one parent does not oppose the visitation.
- The child was born out of wedlock and the parents are not living together. (In the case of paternal grandparents or half-siblings, paternity must have been legally established.)
Asserting Visitation Rights
One of the most common scenarios is grandparents suddenly cut off from their grandchildren after the parents have separated or after one parent has died. The court has considerable discretion in these cases. Grandparents who have served as the primary caretakers for six months or more are given stronger consideration, but are not automatically entitled. The courts also consider:
- The child’s preference (depending on the child’s maturity)
- The physical and mental health of the child and the petitioning party
- The pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and child
- The grandparents’ motives for seeking visitation
- The motives of parent(s) for denying access
- The amount of disruption that visitation would cause in the child’s life
Our attorneys are skilled at preparing and presenting these arguments in the most favorable light. If you are granted access by order of the court, we can also help negotiate the terms of scheduled visitation — frequency, dates, exchanges, overnights and other ground rules. If circumstances support it, we also seek to establish a guardianship for grandparents to protect their grandchildren and keep them in a stable environment.
Grandparents And Third-Party Custody
Grandparents, aunts and uncles, or adult siblings who have served as the de facto parents can petition for official custody when the parents have abandoned the child, been incarcerated or are unfit because of drug addiction, child abuse or other demonstrated harm or threat to the child’s welfare. This is an especially sensitive situation if the parent(s) object to the particular placement or the infringement on their parental rights. We are fiercely protective of the innocent children caught in the middle of these cases, while also giving natural parents fair consideration and exploring alternatives.
Our Chicago Lawyers Manage Complex Visitation Matters
Our experienced and acclaimed team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd., has stood with parents and grandparents throughout the Chicago area during complex multi-party and extra-parental visitation matters. Contact our Chicago grandparents’ rights lawyers by phone at 312-702-0862 or contact us online to schedule a private consultation.