What are the Visitation Laws for Grandparents in Illinois?

Illinois Grandparent Visitation Rights Explained

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article, we explain visitation laws for grandparents in Illinois. While parents have fundamental rights to see and raise their children, grandparents do not. Third party guardians, including grandparents, cannot easily interfere with a parent’s rights unless a child is in danger.

What are the Visitation Laws for Grandparents in Illinois?

There are not any federal laws governing visitation rights for grandparents. Each state has implemented its own laws, including Illinois. Depending on family dynamics, Illinois grandparents do have a limited legal right to visit their grandchildren, especially if the parents are divorced.

Grandparents who would like to establish court-ordered time with their grandchildren may file a petition (written request), but only after the child turns one year old. An Illinois court can grant visitation to grandparents if any of the following circumstances exist:

  • One of the child’s parents is confirmed as unfit or incompetent;
  • One of the child’s parents has been incarcerated in jail or prison for three months or longer;
  • One of the child’s parents is deceased or has been absent for three months or longer;
  • The child’s parents are divorced, and one parent agrees to the visitation of the grandparents; or
  • The child’s parents are not married and do not live together.

Similar to parental visitation laws, the biggest factor is the best interest of the grandchildren. A child’s best interest can be related to the child’s preference, the health of both the child and grandparents, and any potential negative effects of the visitation.

Can a Parent Prohibit a Child From Seeing a Grandparent?

Can I Stop my Parents from Seeing my Child?

Assuming a parent is acting in a child’s best interests by prohibiting visits, a parent can prohibit a child from seeing a grandparent. Any grandparent seeking visitation rights has to prove that the child’s quality of life is negatively affected by the absence of a relationship with his or her grandparents. Therefore, when submitting a formal petition for visitation, grandparents have to prove that spending quality time with their grandchildren is vital to the child’s physical and emotional well-being. This burden of proof can be affected by many factors, including:

  • The child’s preference, if the child is mature enough to state a reasoned opinion;
  • The grandparent’s mental and physical health;
  • The length and quality of the prior grandparent-grandchild relationship;
  • The grandparent’s reasons for filing the petition;
  • The parents’ reasons for denying visitation;
  • The amount of visitation requested and any impact on the child;
  • Whether the child lived with the grandparent for at least 6 months, with or without the parent;
  • Whether the grandparent acted as a primary caretaker of the child for at least 6 months;
  • Whether the grandparent previously had regular visitation with the child for at least 12 months; and
  • Any factor demonstrating that a loss of the grandparent relationship would harm the child’s mental, physical or emotional health.

Even if a grandparent successfully receives court-ordered visitation, these rights can be terminated if the parents have to give custody to a separate party other than the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services or a foster care provider. For example, if a different family adopts a child, the maternal or paternal grandparents do not necessarily have the right to visitation, even if a visitation schedule has been established by a court of law. Any visitation orders entered prior to adoption will be terminated once the adoption is finalized.

Can Grandparents Obtain Custody of a Grandchild?

It is possible for a grandparent to obtain custody of a grandchild. In some circumstances, a grandparent may be more financially and emotionally capable to meet a child’s basic needs than the actual parent. This alone is not enough to transfer custody from the parent to grandparent. In the state of Illinois, grandparents may request custody of a grandchild if:

  • The child’s parents have voluntarily relinquished the child; or
  • The child’s parents have been legally deemed unfit.

If you have any questions regarding grandparent visitation rights in Illinois, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Can a Parent Prohibit a Child From Seeing a Grandparent?

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