Child Custody and Grandparents: Can Grandparents Share Parental Responsibilities?
By: M. Scott Gordon
Can grandparents be eligible for parental responsibilities or grandparent visitation? Under the revised Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), courts do not award child custody or visitation to parents. Instead, courts allocate parental responsibilities, which include both significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. Rather than awarding “visitation” to parents, courts in the Chicago area now think about that time spent with the child as “parenting time.” Yet this change to the law does not immediately make clear how it imagines visitation with other people in a child’s life, such as siblings or grandparents.
The IMDMA has a specific section concerning “visitation by certain non-parents,” which addresses situations where grandparents may be eligible to have visitation time with a child. It is important to note the IMDMA does not conceive of grandparent rights in terms of “parental responsibilities.” Instead, the statute keeps the term “visitation.”
Understanding Grandparent Visitation Under the IMDMA
While Illinois law no longer uses the term “visitation” as it relates to parents and child custody, the IMDMA does still use the term as it relates to other family members’ rights about spending time with a minor child.
The IMDMA explains visitation now is considered in-person time spent between a child and the child’s relative. In some cases, visitation also includes electronic communication under conditions determined by the court.
The statute defines electronic communication as time a relative spends with a child when the child is not in the person’s actual physical custody, but which is facilitated by the use of communication technologies such as a phone, e-mail, video conferencing, or other technologies via the Internet, among others.
How Do Grandparents Get Visitation?
If grandparents cannot seek “parenting time” or any role in the allocation of parental responsibilities, how do they get visitation with a grandchild? The IMDMA clarifies that any person who is eligible to bring a petition for grandparent visitation can do so and this petition can even be part of a court proceeding that involves the allocation of parental responsibilities. In situations where the allocation of parental responsibilities already has occurred and a grandparent is seeking visiting time, then the person petitioning for grandparent visitation must file their petition in the county where the child currently lives.
The court will then consider a variety of factors in determining whether a grandparent should be granted visitation. Some of those factors include but are not limited to:
Learn More from a Chicago Grandparent Visitation Lawyer