As Chicago divorce attorneys, we often speak with stepparents that have formed close parental relationships with step-children. When that marriage leads to divorce, many wonder if an Illinois family court will allow an order for parenting time or stepparent visitation with a step-child?
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Stepparent Visitation in Illinois
When it comes to divorce where a stepparent relationship is involved, stepparent visitation is subject to the same statute under Illinois law that applies to requests for grandparent, great-grandparent, and sibling visitation orders. Generally speaking, in Illinois, there is a rebuttable presumption that a fit parent’s decisions regarding step-parent visitation, as well as visitation with a grandparent, great-grandparent, or siblings, are not harmful to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health. This means that if the parent is a fit parent and they decide that their children should not have visitation with their own parents (the grandparents) Illinois usually won’t disturb it. It would be up to the stepparent who is bringing an action for visitation to prove that either the parent is not fit, or that the actions of the parent are, in fact, harmful to the child’s mental, physical or emotional health before any visitation with the stepchild would be granted.
Factors for Visitation with a Non-Parent
The statute on this in Illinois lists many factors the Court will consider when making an assessment regarding a child visitation order for “non-parents” under 750 ILCS 5/602.9. Specifically, the factors that apply to stepparent visitation are the following:
- The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity and ability to express reasoned and independent preferences as to visitation;
- The mental and physical health of the child;
- The mental and physical health of the grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, or step-parent;
- The length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, or step-parent;
- The good faith of the party in filing the petition;
- The good faith of the person denying visitation;
- The quantity of the visitation time requested and the potential adverse impact that visitation would have on the child’s customary activities;
- Any other fact that establishes that the loss of the relationship between the petitioner and the child is likely to unduly harm the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health; and
- Whether visitation can be structured in a way to minimize the child’s exposure to conflicts between the adults.
Visitation when a Parent is Deceased
If a child’s parent is deceased, though, and the parents of the deceased parent would like visitation, it can sometimes become a situation that is easier to try and obtain visitation when looking at the above factors. (i.e., Mom passes away, mom’s parents want visitation and Dad says no). This is particularly true when the children had a good relationship with maternal grandparents and Dad put a stop to it once Mom passed away, for example. The Court could then find that Dad is acting in bad faith by denying the visitation. Similar circumstances would be at play for step-parent visitation. Additionally, there is no requirement that a stepparent or grandparent have overnight parenting time, even if the parenting time is granted.
Talk to an Experienced Chicago Family Law Attorney About Visitation with a Stepchild
While it is a burden to try to file for stepparent visitation in Illinois, and can at times be an uphill battle, it is attainable in the correct circumstances. If you are a stepparent interested in filing a request for stepparent visitation, seek trusted legal advice from an experienced family law attorney to discuss your unique situation. At Anderson & Boback, we are top rated divorce attorneys with decades of experience helping Chicago clients with complex divorce, child custody and family law matters including stepparent visitation. Contact us today for a free consultation.