The Rights of Grandparents After an Adoption

grandparents, DuPage County family law attorneyAllocating parental responsibilities often involves more than just parents and children. Grandparents and other family members often play a critical role in a child’s life. For this reason, Illinois low allows grandparents to seek court-ordered visitation rights with a child.

It is important to understand that the law presumes that a parent is fit to make decisions regarding their child. This includes where and when to let a grandparent visit. If, however, the grandparent can prove to the court that the parent’s denial of access is both unreasonable and harmful to the child’s “mental, physical, or emotional health,” a judge can override the parent after considering a number of factors.

Court Holds Oral Visitation Agreement Unenforceable in Illinois

But what about cases where a parent has severed their legal parental rights by consenting to their child’s adoption? Can the grandparents still seek visitation rights? An Illinois appeals court recently answered that question in the negative.

This case involved a father who allowed the maternal grandparents to legally adopt his child. According to the father, he had an oral agreement with the maternal grandparents that both and he his parents–the child’s paternal grandparents–would continue to enjoy visitation rights with the child. The father said the maternal grandparents later breached this agreement and withheld visitation rights. He and his parents then sued to enforce their earlier agreement.

As far as the Illinois courts are concerned, there was no legally binding contract formed. The Illinois Third District Appellate Court explained that adoption severs all parental rights and renders the former parent a “legal stranger” to child. By necessity, this also severs any legal ties between the child and the former parent’s parents—in this case, the paternal grandparents.

Put simply, the former father and grandparents have no legal standing in Illinois to enforce a visitation agreement. The Third District said that even if they had standing, the contract itself would still be unenforceable. Requiring the adoptive parents to allow visitation rights amounts to “specific performance” of a contract for “personal services,” which is not permitted under Illinois law.

A DuPage County Grandparents’ Rights Attorney Can Help

The above case may involve an unusual scenario, but it illustrates the uphill climb grandparents can face in the courts to gain visitation rights. If you find yourself in conflict with your grandchild’s parents and feel court intervention may be necessary, it is critical you speak to a passionate DuPage County family law attorney as soon as possible. Visitation petitions are not a simple matter. They involve complicated questions of law. You need an experienced attorney by your side to help guide you through the process.

 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=075000050HPt.+VI&ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=8350000&SeqEnd=10200000

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/R23_Orders/AppellateCourt/2017/3rdDistrict/3150724_R23.pdf

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