For many families, it is considered a blessing to have a large number of relatives interested in visiting one another and helping raise children in a loving environment. In other situations, however, the family relationships may be strained, and a person with children may choose to limit his or her child’s interaction with other members of the child’s family. If you have been prevented from seeing or interacting with a child in your own immediate or extended family, it is important to understand how the law applies in such situations.
Under Illinois law, stepparents have no inherent rights to visitation if the child’s biological parent (at least one) does not consent. However, since 1998, there has been some movement toward changing this. After a series of decisions involving the question of stepparents seeking visitation from parents who were still in the proverbial picture, Illinois courts essentially recognized that stepparents might have standing, or the legal capacity to bring suit over a specific alleged wrong. However, even with standing, most stepparents are not able to obtain visitation without a significant fight.
A stepparent may only ask for visitation, assuming the biological parent does not consent, if the biological parents are disabled, deceased or otherwise unable to consent. If one or both parents are deceased, then a stepparent may petition for either parenting time or full allocation of parental responsibilities. Certain criteria must be met, including the stepparent having been married to the biological parent for at least 5 years, as well as the child being at least 12 years old and wanting to have a relationship with the stepparent.
Grandparent and Sibling Visitation
Siblings and grandparents of minor children occupy a slightly different position under Illinois law. They must prove that there has been an “unreasonable denial” of visitation, which can be difficult, but not impossible. At least one of the following conditions must be met, as well as the child’s parent unreasonably denying the visitation:
- The other parent of the child in question has been out of the picture (either deceased or missing) for at least three months;
- One or both of the child’s parents have been declared legally incompetent;
- One or both parents have been incarcerated for at least three months prior to the petition;
- The child’s parents are in the middle of a divorce and at least one parent does not object to the visitation; and/or
- The child was born out of wedlock (to parents not living as a couple) and the petitioner is a sibling or grandparent. Legal paternity is required for paternal grandparents or siblings to have standing.
Be advised that “visitation” can mean not only in-person visits, but also reasonable electronic communication, if it is ordered. This may be easier for some, and more parents are likely to consent to it if the child can remain with them while interacting electronically with other family members.
Ask an Attorney
If your grandchild, sibling or stepchild is in a situation where you would like obtain visitation privileges, an experienced DuPage County family law attorney can help you explore your available options. Call 630-871-1002 for a free consultation today.