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Visitation Rights for Non-Parent Family Members

Posted on in Visitation

DuPage County family law attorneyAccording to a familiar saying, it takes a village to raise a child, and in many families, this spirit is certainly evident. Any number of family and friends may help to raise a child, especially if the child has a single parent or if the parents work multiple jobs to take care of him or her. However, such family members have no legal rights regarding the child except in certain circumstances.

Trends Favor Parents

Illinois is historically a state which has placed a strong premium on children having one or both parents in his or her life, even if there may be a potential safety issue. For example, it is relatively rare for parents to be declared unfit—even those with substance abuse problems. As such, it is not usually deemed optimal to award visitation to anyone besides the parent or parents. However, some grandparents or other family members like aunts, uncles, and siblings may still be granted visitation privileges, especially if the parents surrender custody of their own volition.

Case precedent in Illinois reflects the long-held belief that a parent has a “constitutionally protected latitude to raise their children as they decide,” because there is a rebuttable presumption that parents act in their children’s best interests. If it can be shown that they do not, then the question of unfitness will be addressed, but it is difficult to overcome this presumption. The mere concern of a family member is not enough to get visitation with the child; there is a specific procedure that must be followed.

Requirements for Visitation

In order to petition for visitation, a grandparent or other specified relative must show that there has been an “unreasonable denial” of visitation by a parent that is causing harm to the child. Additionally, the other parent must be deceased, incompetent as a matter of law, incarcerated, or the parents must be divorced (or never married). In other words, grandparents and other relatives are generally allowed to seek visitation only when both parents are not present in the child’s life.

If these requirements are met, and the court holds that visitation would be in the best interest of the child, it will be granted. Visitation may either be in person or via electronic means like Skype or Facetime. The good news is that once an order of visitation is granted, it may not be modified by the parent unless they are able to show evidence previously unknown to the court that shows the child is in danger of mental, emotional or physical harm if the visitation continues. This is a difficult standard to meet, and the courts do not appreciate frivolous motions to modify.

Need Help Obtaining Visitation?

If you have a grandchild, nephew or niece, or sibling that you believe you should be able to see, we may be able to assist. Contact our DuPage County visitation attorneys today to set up an initial appointment, and we will help you through the process.


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