Visitation Rights for Family Members
In January 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was amended, and a new section was added that created the right of certain family members who are not parents to file a petition for visitation with a child. This new section applies to grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, and step-parents of a child.
Petitions for visitation by non-parents can be brought by grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, or step-parents only in cases where there has been an unreasonable denial of visitation by the child’s parent, and the denial has caused the child undue mental, physical, or emotional harm. The judge will consider many factors in these cases, such as
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Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities is the New Custody
The new section 602.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that “significant decision-making responsibilities” must be allocated to one or both parents. This was referred to as “joint custody” or “sole custody” in the previous version of the IMDMA. The new section 602.5 is similar to the old one in that the court is to consider the child’s best interests when allocating decision-making responsibilities. This statute section then lists fifteen specific best interest factors as well as a catchall of “any other factor that the court expressly finds to be relevant.” Note that the court is not REQUIRED to allocate any decision-making responsibilities to a parent. In other words, a parent is not guaranteed any decision-making responsibilities; he or she could walk away from a divorce with no significant decision-making responsibilities whatsoever.
Section 602.5 sets forth four significant decision-making issues for parents and courts to address:
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