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Factors in Deciding Grandparent Visitation

Factors in Deciding Grandparent Visitation

By: M. Scott Gordon

Grandparent visitation is a difficult issue in the Chicago area and throughout the state of Illinois. When divorces are particularly contentious, for example, or when questions of whether spending time with one of the parents is in the child’s best interests, grandparents can be denied visitation with their grandchild. When the grandparents were accustomed to spending time with the child and playing a significant role in the child’s life, the denial of visitation and any form of electronic communication can become extremely difficult and emotionally challenging.

It is possible, in some circumstances, to obtain grandparent visitation rights. However, grandparents should understand the factors that the court will take into account when determining whether to grant visitation. By looking at the relevant Illinois law, we can help you to understand what those factors might be. It is very important to work with an experienced Chicago area family law attorney as you begin the process of seeking grandparent visitation.

Illinois Law on “Visitation By Certain Non-Parents”

The Illinois law that deals with grandparent visitation is defined in our statute as concerning “visitation by certain non-parents” (750 ILCS 5/602.9). Under this law, a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, step-parent, and other certain persons can file a petition to request visitation with the child. Before the court will even look to the statutory factors for deciding whether to grant visitation, however, the child must be at least one year old, and the grandparent (or whoever is filing the petition) must be able to show that “there has been an unreasonable denial of visitation by a parent and the denial has caused the child undue mental, physical, or emotional harm.”

The statute makes clear that “there is a rebuttable assumption that a fit parent’s actions and decisions regarding grandparent . . . visitation are not harmful to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.” As such, Illinois law firmly places the burden on the grandparent to prove that the parent’s denial of visitation will in fact result in “undue harm to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.”

What Factors Does the Court Consider in Determining Whether Grandparent Visitation is Appropriate in the Chicago area?

Not everyone can seek this type of visitation, and statute sets forth certain factors of when a court may consider a Petition for visitation.  If the court decides to consider the petition for grandparent visitation, then the statute outlines the following factors for the court to consider in deciding whether grandparent visitation is appropriate:

  • The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to visitation;
  • The mental and physical health of the child;
  • The mental and physical health of the grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, or step-parent;
  • The length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, or step-parent;
  • The good faith of the part in filing the petition;
  • The good faith of the person denying visitation;
  • The quantity of the visitation time requested and the potential adverse impact that visitation would have on the child’s customary activities;
  • Any other fact that establishes that the loss of the relationship between the petitioner and the child is likely to unduly harm the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health; and
  • Whether visitation can be structured in a way to minimize the child’s exposure to conflict between the adults.

As with other statutory issues in which the court can consider a number of different factors in making a determination, no single factor listed above is necessarily dispositive. In other words, the court can decide how much weight to give to the factors based on the circumstances of the case.

Seek Advice from a Chicago Grandparent Visitation Lawyer

Grandparent visitation is a complicated matter. If you have questions about a petition, a Chicago grandparent visitation attorney can help with your case. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates today.