Illinois and the rest of the states have all enacted statutes provide guidelines around grandparent visitation rights. The purpose of the laws is to provide grandparents with visitations rights to their grandchildren so long as it is in the best interests of the children.
As in many other states, the general rule in Illinois is that when parents are divorced or unmarried, or if one parent died, has been deployed or has passed away, grandparents may petition the court for visitation rights to grandchildren.
The statutory guidelines for granting visitation rights to grandparents are somewhat more restrictive than some states, though, because when a couple is still married, they are presumed to have the authority to decide whether or not grandparents should have visitation rights.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important decision regarding grandparent visitation rights. The Court essentially overturned a Washington statute that allowed judges to award grandparents visitation rights even when the parents did not agree.
The Court held that “fit” parents have a fundamental right under the Constitution to make child-rearing decisions, and state courts cannot infringe upon that right like the Washington court had.
However, the Court said its decision strictly applied to Washington’s grandparent visitation statutes, so the statutes of other states were not invalidated.
If grandparents have the statutory authority to petition the court for visitation rights in Illinois, the burden of showing that the visitation would be in the best interests of the child falls on them. In most cases, this can be very complicated and both sides require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.
Grandparent visitation cases can also be very complex when veterans and military servicemembers are involved as a unique set of laws have to be applied. Skilled family law attorneys are needed in these cases as well.
Source: Findlaw.com, “Grandparent Visitation Rights,” May 2, 2014