Grandparents' Rights to Visitation and Custody in Illinois


Grandparents often form a close bond with their grandchildren, especially when they have played a significant role in raising them. Unfortunately, both grandparent and grandchild can suffer if the relationship between parent and grandparent unexpectedly breaks down or if there are concerns about a parent's fitness. While the law is never cavalier about curtailing parental rights, grandparents in Illinois have some options when they are unreasonably denied access to their grandchildren. If you are a grandparent concerned about the well-being of your grandchild or you are a parent in Chicago resisting grandparent interference, a grandparents' rights lawyer from Downs Law Offices may be able to help your assert your rights and resolve your issues.


Unlike parental visitation, which is nearly always granted, grandparent visitation rights are far from guaranteed. However, a grandparent unreasonably denied access may ask a court to order visitation under any one of several circumstances:

  • One of the parents is deceased or has been missing for three months.
  • One of the parents has been adjudged legally incompetent.
  • One of the parents has been in jail for at least three months.
  • The parents are divorcing or involved in a custody action and at least one is not opposed to visitation.
  • The parents are unmarried and not living together.

Even under these circumstances, a court orders grandparent visitation only if it is in the best interests of the child and assumes that a parent's decision to restrict access is reasonable unless the grandparent can show otherwise. The court may also consider the child's preference if he or she is old enough.


In some unfortunate cases, a grandparent or other relative in Chicago may want to assume responsibility for a child. This is common when the parent is underage, mentally ill, incapacitated or in prison. A parent may give a grandparent short-term guardianship without the necessity of going to court. If, however, the parents to do not consent or the guardianship is to last for longer than 365 days, a court order may be necessary. Grandparents may request custody, a more permanent arrangement, only if the child is no longer in the custody of either parent or one of the parents is deceased and the other parent is absent, incarcerated or under supervision for certain crimes.

For grandparents who want to assume responsibility permanently for a child, relative adoptions may also be an option. If both parents consent or are deceased, it can be a fairly straightforward process, although a court proceeding is still required. If, however, one or both parents do not consent, an adopting grandparent must show the court that the biological parents are unfit before the adoption can occur.

Grandparents in Chicago often do not know what to do when their children shut them out of their grandchildren's lives. At Downs Law Offices, our experienced Chicago attorneys can help you understand your legal options and take the steps necessary to protect the health and well-being of your grandchildren.

Helping grandparents care for their families

Call Downs Law Offices at 312-781-1963 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable lawyers. We are centrally located on the Loop at the corner of North Upper Wacker Drive and West Randolph Street with onsite parking and easy access to public transportation.