Visitation for Non-parents After a Chicago Divorce

After a divorce in Chicago, other family members may be frustrated by their ability to spend time with the minor children from the marriage. For example, a grandparent might be accustomed to spending a particular amount of time with the kids and may be angry about the way in which the court allocated parental responsibilities. Adult siblings also may want to have the ability to spend time with their younger siblings despite the way in which parenting time has been allocated. In short, either a parenting plan or an allocation judgment might allot parenting time in a manner that makes it difficult for non-parents to keep their typical schedules of spending time with the kids. Do these non-parents have any rights when it comes to parental responsibilities and a parenting plan or allocation judgment?

IMDMA Addresses Non-parent “Visitation”

The issue of non-parent visitation is a frequent one, and the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) specifically addresses it. First, the IMDMA defines visitation as the time a child spends face-to-face with a  grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, step-parent, or another specifically designated family member.

Prior to amendments to the IMDMA, visitation was a term that was used to describe a time that the non-custodial parent would spend with a child. Now, there is no such thing as a custodial or non-custodial parent under Illinois law. Accordingly, the term “visitation” now refers to a non-parent family member spending time with the children. 

Rebuttable Presumption About Visitation in Favor of the Parents

A non-parent can file a petition for visitation, according to the IMDMA, if one of the parents has denied the non-parent visitation, and that denial has caused the child harm. In other words, the petitioner must prove that he or she has been unreasonably denied visitation and that it has caused undue harm to the child. This is a pretty difficult burden to meet since, as the IMDMA clarifies, there is a rebuttable presumption in favor of the parents’ decisions. 

More specifically, the statute says, there is a rebuttable presumption that if a fit parent decides to restrict visitation for a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, or step-parent, then that decision is not harmful to the child’s health. The IMDMA also makes clear that the burden is on the non-parent who is petitioning for visitation to prove the two required elements we outlined above.

When the court decides whether to grant visitation, it takes into account a number of different factors. Some of those factors include but are not limited to: 

  • Child’s wishes;
  • Child’s mental and physical health;
  • Petitioner’s mental and physical health;
  • Quality of the previous relationship between the child and the petitioner;
  • Amount of visitation time requested; and
  • Good faith of the petitioner and the parent denying visitation.

Contact a Family Lawyer in Chicago

Questions about non-parent visitation can be extremely complicated, but an experienced family law attorney in Chicago can assist you. Whether you have questions about petitioning for visitation or need assistance after a non-parent has petitioned for visitation, an advocate at our firm can help. Contact Arami Law, Inc. today to learn more.

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