The family structure of two parents in their first marriage living together with their children no longer describes the majority of American households. As a result, I notice many grandparents are taking significant roles in caring for and making decisions on behalf of their grandchildren — but if a conflict arises, where do they legally stand? The answer depends on the case, but there are some general ideas, which define the conversation regarding grandparent custody in Illinois.

Please remember this is not legal advice. However, it could interest you to know there are ways to take a major role in your grandchildren’s lives, which exist even outside foster-parenting, adoption and so forth. These are processes, which typically require the absence of parents, their incompetence, or the voluntary surrender of parental rights.

How To Answer a Parent’s Denial of Visitation

Unfortunately, there are not any federal laws governing visitation rights for grandparents. Any grandparent seeking visitation rights has to prove the child’s quality of life is negatively affected by the absence of a relationship with his/her grandparents.

As a grandparent, you could attempt to show the court that the parent who is denying you visitation is not fit to make decisions. Or, you could attempt to show the action of denying visitation causes harm to the grandchild.

When You Could Petition the Court for Visitation

The text of the law specifically lists some instances where a grandparent could file a petition for visitation, such as during any other case involving visitation and parental responsibilities. You may also be able to start your own case. Whenever you do this, there would be three basic prerequisites: The child should have an eligible legal status, you should be qualified to file a petition and there should be a denial of visitation that harms the child.

What the Court Might Consider

Some other situations may allow you to assume more responsibility for your grandchildren. For example, a military parent could potentially designate you as a substitute if he/she were deployed or is scheduled to be deployed. You would likely want to look at your entire situation to determine if there were other similar options.

How To Avoid Court Action

Apart from legal action, you could conceivably take a more central role in your grandchildren’s lives by taking part in alternative dispute resolution sessions, especially in the context of divorce. This could be a good strategy if there were no actively harmful action by the parents, such as abuse, neglect and so forth, and if the parents were receptive to your requests.

Once again, your case would likely require a comprehensive review to determine the best chance you have for a continuing legal relationship with your grandchild. Please contact me at (312) 621-5234 to get started today.