As the Quarantine wears on, we all miss our extended families. My daughter keeps looking at pictures of her grandparents and getting teary-eyed because she misses them. She doesn’t understand why she cannot go visit them and FaceTime is not curbing her sadness. Grandparents are a huge force in our families, but what happens when a parent limits the Grandparents’ access to their grandchildren, outside of a pandemic creating extenuating circumstances?
In Illinois, our legislature has a long history of trying to provide Grandparents with some options regarding contact with their Grandchildren, including a previous statute that was later found to be unconstitutional. In the US, Parents have constitutional rights to their children and it is presumed that the parents are capable of making sounds decisions for their children, however, Illinois has provided an additional statute to provide Grandparents a limited option to file in Court to exercise visitation rights with their Grandchildren.
Currently, 750 ILCS 5/602.9 governs visitation by non-parents, which includes Grandparents. The statute only applies in very limited circumstances and is very detailed in its requirements for obtained Grandparent visitation. The first hurdle to overcome is that the Grandparent, or other non-parent as allowed by 602.9 may only file a petition if there has been an unreasonable denial of visitation by a parent and the denial has caused the child undue mental, physical, or emotional harm. If a Grandparent meets these requirements and the other requirements in the statute, the Grandparent can receive a Court Order granting a specified schedule of when and where they will be provided visitation with their Grandchildren. This becomes a Court enforceable Order that parents must comply with.
During this Pandemic, the Governor has provided an exception to the Stay at Home Order that declares travel to facilitate the exchange of children pursuant to a Court Order is essential travel. Therefore, unless the parent and Grandparents have agreed otherwise, any Court Ordered Grandparent visitation, should continue at this time. All parties involved should be acting in the best interests of the child at all times and therefore, the parent and Grandparents may decide that visitation at this time may need to be suspended for the safety and well-being of all. This is certainly not a requirement and not something that can be used against either the parent or the Grandparents.
However, if the current Pandemic has increased the tension between the parent and Grandparents and there does not seem to be a solution even after the Pandemic ends, the Grandparents might have the right to visitation under Illinois law.
If you have any questions regarding your rights as a Grandparent, please do not hesitate to contact Sterk Family Law to schedule a free consultation. At this time, we are offering remote consultation, including via telephone and virtual meeting programs.
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