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Do grandparents have child visitation rights in Illinois?

We've written several blog posts about child custody matters and the impact on both children and parents. In many families, child custody and visitation matters impact not only parents, but also grandparents who, as a result of a child’s divorce or split, may experience a change in access to a grandchild.

Illinois does not have a formal grandparent visitation law. However, under certain circumstances, grandparents may take legal action to gain visitation rights to a grandchild. For many children, grandparents play an integral role in their lives. In cases where the circumstances of child custody and visitation agreements related to a divorce or pending divorce adversely impact a grandparent’s access to and relationship with a grandchild, families are advised to attempt to sort out a visitation agreement on their own.

A family court will recognize a grandparent visitation agreement that is voluntarily provided by the parents of a minor-aged child. It's much more difficult, however, for grandparents to convince an Illinois family court to award visitation rights to a grandchild in cases where one parent objects.

In cases where a grandchild's mother or father is divorced or going through a divorce, grandparents may seek a formal court-ordered visitation agreement provided three months have passed since the child's parents separated or divorced. A grandparent’s visitation must also be supported by at least one of the grandchild's parents. A family court will only consider granting a grandparent visitation rights if the following requirements are met:

  • Grandparent's visitation does not interfere with the visitation rights of the unrelated parent.
  • The continuation of a relationship with a grandparent is deemed to be in a child's best interest.
  • Grandparent must prove that he or she is being unreasonably denied access to a grandchild.
  • Grandparent must show that a grandchild is suffering physically or mentally as a result of denied access.

Today's familial structures are more complex than ever. A grandchild's parents may never marry and split-up or may divorce. As parents forge new relationships, remarry and have additional children; the special bond that exists between a grandparent and grandchild may be severed. Grandparents who have questions about obtaining visitation rights to a grandchild would be wise to discuss their situation with an attorney who handles family law matters and who can help determine if legal action is warranted. 

Source: Illinois Legal Aid, "Senior Citizens Handbook - Grandparents and Grandchildren," 2014

Illinois Legal Aid, "As a Grandparent, Do I Have Visitation Rights with My Grandchildren?," 2014

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