Visitation Rights for Grandparents and Family Members in Illinois

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article we explain visitation rights for grandparents and family members in Illinois.  We discuss SB2498, a new law that outlines how certain non-parents, such as grandparents, can seek visitation rights with respect to children. We answer the questions: “Who can file for visitation rights in Illinois?” “What conditions must be met for family members to receive visitation rights in Illinois?” “What does the court consider when granting visitation rights to non-parent family members in Illinois?,” “Who can’t receive visitation rights in Illinois?” and “How can you file for visitation in Illinois?”

Who can file for visitation rights in Illinois?

Grandparents, great-grandparents, step-parents, and siblings (including half-siblings and step-siblings) of a minor child who is at least one year old can petition for visitation and electronic communication if they meet certain conditions.

What conditions must be met for family members to receive visitation rights in Illinois?

The child’s family member (grandparent, great-grandparent, step-parent, or sibling) must prove that a parent’s denial of visitation is unreasonable and will cause “undue mental, physical, or emotional harm to the child.” At least one of the following conditions also must exist:

  • The child’s other parent is deceased or has been missing for at least 90 days and has been reported missing to the authorities.
  • A parent has been deemed incompetent as a matter of law.
  • A parent has been in jail or prison for more than 90 days immediately prior to filing the petition.
  • The parents are divorced, legally separated, or pending divorce.
  • There are certain kinds of pending cases involving parental responsibilities or visitation and at least one parent doesn’t object to the relative’s visitation. The relative’s visitation can’t cut into the parenting time of the parent not related to the petitioner.
  • The child’s parents are not married or living together. The parentage must be legally established for that parent’s relative to request visitation.

What does the court consider when granting visitation to non-parent family members in Illinois?

The court takes into account several factors when determining visitation rights, including:

  • The child’s wishes, considering their maturity and ability to determine their own opinion on the matter.
  • The mental and physical health of both the child and petitioner.
  • The length and quality of their relationship.
  • The good faith of both the petitioner and the parent denying visitation.
  • The amount of visitation requested and how that impacts the child’s routine.
  • Whether the visitation can be arranged to avoid exposing the child to conflict among adults.
  • Whether the child lived with the petitioning relative for at least 6 consecutive months.
  • Whether the child had frequent and regular contact with the petitioner for at least 12 consecutive months.
  • Whether the relative was the child’s primary caretaker for at least 6 consecutive months in the last two years.

Who can’t receive visitation rights in Illinois?

You can’t receive visitation rights if the child has been adopted or is in the process of being adopted by adoptive parents that aren’t related to the child’s biological parents. You also can’t petition if the child was given up under the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act or was otherwise voluntarily surrendered, except to the Department of Children and Family Services or a foster care facility. Visitation is not given to relatives of children involved in a pending case under Section 2-13 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987.

There are also limitations and restrictions for relatives seeking visitation who have been convicted of sexual crimes against a minor. The court will deny requests from anyone convicted of first-degree murder of a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling of the child to whom they’re seeking visitation rights.  

How can non-parent family members  file for visitation rights in Illinois?

You can file a petition in a pending court proceeding, such as a divorce or other parental responsibility or visitation case. If there are no existing cases, you must file the petition in the circuit court of the county where the child lives.

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