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Update: Can Grandparents be Awarded Custody of Grandchildren in Illinois?

 Posted on August 23,2019 in Family Law

Kane County family law attorney

UPDATE: This is an update to a 2019 blog that discusses grandparents and child custody. Read through the blog to learn about a new pilot program intended to help grandparents raising grandchildren in Illinois, then continue to learn more about how grandparents seeking custody of their grandchildren can move forward with a case. Finally, contact a St. Charles, IL grandparents' rights attorney for help.

Many grandparents in Illinois are responsible, at least in part, for raising their grandchildren. Whether the reason for the need for extended family support is due to very young parents, parents who have died, parents who are incarcerated, or parents who are simply unfit to raise their own children, grandparents often find themselves doing the lion’s share of the care and keeping of a child.

Sometimes, grandparents need or want to make this arrangement formal by seeking custody of a grandchild. If you are in this situation, you may be wondering: What are grandparents’ rights in Illinois?

Governor J.B. Pritzker Signs House Bill 0780

Illinois recently passed legislation creating a pilot program intended to make it easier for grandparents’ who are taking care of grandchildren to succeed and thrive. The legislation authorizes funding and support for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Pilot Program. Although this pilot program is based in Will County for now, it will be used to guide the state as it finds and helps older caregivers who are raising their family’s children.

While the program does not change the law around how grandparents seek custody of their grandchildren, it will hopefully lead to a future where grandparents who are doing so can get the support they need more easily.

Child custody is usually an issue between the two parents of the child. However, there are some cases in which a grandparent is considered for custody of the child(ren). In Illinois, custody disputes that are taken into family court are settled based on what is in the child’s best interests. If the judge finds that neither parent is suitable to take custody of a minor, he or she can allocate parental responsibilities to the grandparents.

Cases of this nature sometimes can be found in single-parent households where the sole parent is shirking—or unable to fulfill—their responsibilities for whatever reason. Some divorce cases have also ended with grandparents stepping into the parental role. It all depends on the capability of the parents.

Factors that are taken into consideration when determining child placement include:

  • Will the child be living in a stable household?
  • Will the child be safe with the parents?
  • Any history of violence and/or other illegal activities of the parents.
  • Can the parents provide for the child (i.e. clothing, food, medical care)?
  • The mental and physical health of the parents.

If neither parent measures up, the court will often move to the next of kin, which is usually the grandparents.

Can Grandparents Petition for Custody on Their Own?

There are many reasons why a family court judge will grant custody to a grandparent, but the most common are due to parental death, neglect or abuse, parental substance abuse, parental illness, and parental incarceration. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, grandparents cannot petition for custody if the child is living with one parent after a divorce. In these cases, the parents must be the ones to relinquish their rights willingly before a grandparent can petition to take in the children.

In other cases, a grandparent has the right to petition for guardianship. If there is evidence of abuse by one or both parents, the grandparents can notify the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and can be awarded custody by a family court judge upon conviction of the parents.

Grandparents are also allowed to collect child support from a parent who is deemed unfit to take care of their children through a child support enforcement agency. There are several other ways in which grandparents can find financial help with their grandchildren, including:

  • Child Only Grants;
  • Regular Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Grants;
  • Social Security to aid with insurance benefits; and
  • Food stamps.

Contact a St. Charles, IL Child Custody Attorney

If a grandparent feels that their grandchildren may be in danger or a bad environment with their parents, they can start the process of a custody dispute. To help them along the way, they should hire a lawyer from Weiler & Associates, Inc. to lead them to an outcome that will be in the child’s best interest. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Kane County child custody dispute lawyer, call 630-331-9110

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