Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in Illinois: Common Questions Answered


Grandparents play a vital role in the lives of their grandchildren, offering love, guidance, and a unique connection that spans generations. In certain circumstances, when parents are unable to provide what their children need, grandparents may seek to exercise their rights to maintain those precious relationships. But what are those rights, and how can you exercise them? Read on to learn more about grandparent visitation rights in Illinois, the legal aspects and filing procedures, and the importance of seeking the guidance of a family law attorney.

What are Grandparents’ Rights in Illinois?

Illinois recognizes the significance of maintaining relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren, but asserting grandparents “rights” is an uphill battle unless a limited circumstance applies. Visitation rights for grandparents are not automatically granted, however, Illinois law acknowledges that in specific situations, it is in the child’s best interest to have ongoing contact with their grandparents. The court considers the child’s well-being as the primary factor when deciding whether to grant grandparents rights for visitation.

Is There a Law for Grandparents Visitation Rights in Illinois?

Currently, there are no federal laws specifically governing this matter. However, in the state of Illinois, some provisions allow grandparents a limited legal right to spend time with their grandchildren. Ultimately, the decision of who can have visitation with the child rests with the child’s parents. Nevertheless, there are situations where a non-parent can seek a court order to secure visitation rights.

In Illinois, the following family members can petition the court for visitation rights: grandparents, great-grandparents, step-parents, brothers, and sisters. The petition can be brought forward if there is an unreasonable denial of visitation by a parent, causing undue mental, physical, or emotional harm to the child. For a grandparent to be considered for visitation, they must meet certain qualifications as stated in the current Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act:

  1. The child’s other parent is deceased or has been missing for at least 90 days. The parent is considered missing if their location is unknown and they have been reported as missing to the authorities.
  2. A parent of the child is legally determined to be incompetent.
  3. A parent has been incarcerated in jail or prison for a period exceeding 90 days immediately prior to the filing of the petition.
  4. The child’s parents have gone through a divorce or legal separation, or there is an ongoing proceeding regarding parental responsibilities or visitation, and at least one parent does not object to the visitation by the grandparent, great-grandparent, step-parent, or sibling. The visitation should not diminish the parenting time of the parent unrelated to the grandparent, great-grandparent, step-parent, or sibling seeking visitation.
  5. The child is born to parents who are not married to each other, the parents do not live together, and the petitioner is a grandparent, great-grandparent, step-parent, or sibling of the child, and parentage has been legally established by a court.

It is important to note that if the child’s parents are still together, a grandparent cannot petition the court for visitation rights. These cases typically arise when a parent has passed away, is incarcerated, or is facing significant issues such as substance abuse or mental illness. 

Additionally, according to the statute, a petition for visitation cannot be filed by the parents or grandparents if the legal establishment of parentage between the child and the related parent has not occurred. 

If a grandparent successfully overcomes the obstacles mentioned, the court will take into account the following factors when deciding on visitation rights:

  • Whether the child has lived with the grandparent continuously for at least 6 months, with or without a parent present.
  • Whether the child has had frequent and regular contact or visitation with the grandparent for a minimum of 12 consecutive months.
  • Whether the grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, or step-parent has served as the primary caretaker of the child for a period of at least 6 consecutive months within the 24-month period immediately preceding the start of the legal process.

According to 750 ILCS 602.9(c)(2), these factors are crucial in determining visitation arrangements. It is important to note that if a grandparent is seeking to establish a relationship with their grandchild for the first time, without any prior contact, it can be extremely challenging to achieve through the court system.

Can Grandparents Sue for Visitation Rights in Illinois?

Yes, grandparents can sue for visitation rights in Illinois by filing a petition with the court. However, it is important to note that the burden of proof lies with the grandparents. The court will consider the child’s best interest, and grandparents must provide substantial evidence demonstrating that visitation is in the child’s best interest, even if the parents object.

How Do I File for Grandparents’ Rights in Illinois?

To seek visitation rights as a grandparent in Illinois, you must file a petition with the court. The petition should include relevant information about your relationship with the child and the reasons why visitation is in their best interest. It is highly recommended to consult with a family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process, help prepare the necessary documents, and present a compelling case on your behalf.

What Rights Do Paternal Grandparents Have?

In Illinois, paternal grandparents have the same rights as maternal grandparents. The court does not distinguish between paternal and maternal grandparents when considering visitation rights. The focus remains on the child’s well-being and the strength of the grandparent-grandchild relationship.

How and When Can Grandparents Gain Custody of a Child?

Grandparents can gain custody of a child in Illinois when certain circumstances warrant it. If the court determines that it is not in the child’s best interest to remain in the custody of the parents, they may consider granting custody to the grandparents. Factors such as abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or the parents’ inability to provide a safe and stable environment are taken into account when deciding custody matters. It is crucial to consult with a family law attorney to understand the specific circumstances and legal process involved in seeking custody.

Why Get a Family Law Attorney?

Navigating the legal complexities of grandparents’ visitation rights and custody matters can be challenging. Engaging the services of a skilled family law attorney is crucial to ensure that your rights and the best interests of your grandchildren are protected. An experienced attorney can provide invaluable guidance, help you prepare a strong case, and advocate for your rights in court.

Grandparents are an irreplaceable source of love, wisdom, and stability in their grandchildren’s lives. In Illinois, there are legal avenues available for grandparents to pursue visitation rights or custody when circumstances require it. By understanding the laws and seeking the assistance of a family law attorney, grandparents can take steps to preserve those precious relationships. Let us strive to protect and nurture the bonds that matter most, for the well-being and happiness of future generations.