Under the Illinois “grandparent visitation statute,” a grandparent may bring a court action seeking child visitation rights under certain specific circumstances. For example, a grandparent might be eligible for visitation rights if one parent is deceased or has been missing for at least three months, or if the parents are divorced and at least one parent does not object to the visitation.
A grandparent may also seek visitation if a child is born out of wedlock and the parents are not living together. The Illinois Appellate Court recently heard the case of Pruitt v. Pruitt which discussed that scenario.
A grandfather seeks visitation
The maternal grandfather of the minor child wished to establish grandparent visitation rights. He alleged that, for approximately two years, his daughter and the child had lived in the grandfather’s household, along with his wife and his other minor children. The grandfather provided care during this time, in addition to food and clothing. After the mother moved out, the grandfather had attempted to negotiate a reasonable visitation schedule with the unmarried parents, but he had been unsuccessful.
Under the applicable law, the grandfather alleged that he qualified for visitation due to the fact that the child was born out of wedlock and the parents were not living together.
In his sworn affidavit, the grandfather stated that he was told by the sheriff who had served the court papers that the sheriff had been told the couple did not reside at the address, and the mother was actually served the notice papers at another location, standing outside her vehicle. The parents moved to dismiss the claim on the basis that the grandfather had failed to adequately prove his case.
Did the grandfather prove his case?
The Illinois Appellate Court noted that the parents had also provided sworn affidavits asserting that they did, in fact, live together. At that point, in terms of the evidence, the grandfather had the burden of proving that the couple did not live together.
However, the grandfather had admitted in his own affidavit that he did not know for certain whether the couple lived together. A statement of his “belief” was not the same as competent evidence showing they did not live together. In addition, the statements of the sheriff who attempted to serve the couple was not sworn testimony by the sheriff; it was simply repeated by the grandfather, and therefore was not competent evidence. Finally, even if the couple did not live at the address served, they still might be living together at a different address.
The grandfather had failed to prove that he qualified for grandparent visitation under the statute, and his family law case was dismissed.
Understanding the law’s requirements
Whether you are a grandparent seeking visitation, or parents opposing such visits, it is crucial that you are represented by an attorney who can explain the requirements of the law and work with you to review the evidence to support your position. Seek a highly experienced and reputable law firm that has dealt effectively with all types of visitation cases.