Illinois courts make all decisions regarding children based on the child’s interests, including decisions about custody and child support. Typically, it is considered in the child’s interests to be cared for, raised, and financially supported by both parents, whether or not those parents are separated. Unfortunately, there are some cases where this is not in a child’s interests. If you need help petitioning the court for custody rights, you need a Springfield child custody attorney.

The courts may award sole or joint legal and physical custody of a child to either parent, depending on a family’s unique circumstances and the interests of a child. In rare cases, the court may give custody rights to a third party when neither parent can provide for a child. For grandparents, stepparents, and other relatives of children, this may feel like the necessary action if a child’s parents are unable or unwilling to care for their child.

What Is Third-Party Custody in Springfield?

Third-party custody refers to any case where the family court gives child custody rights to an individual who is not a legal and biological parent of the child. Commonly, the party who seeks custody rights is the child’s:

  • Grandparent
  • Aunt or uncle
  • Stepparent
  • Another relative
  • Adult whom a child has been living with for a period of time

Being related to a child does not translate to legal custody rights. Third-party custody rights must be granted by the court. For the court to grant a third-party custody request, the child’s biological parents must be unfit or unable to care for the child, and the proposed custody arrangement must be in the child’s interests. This custody may be temporary or permanent.

Why Would Parents Be Unfit for Custody?

A third party may retain custody rights for several reasons, including the biological parents being absent, incapacitated, or deceased. Parents may also be suffering from extreme financial hardship or willingly give up their parental rights.

If one parent is deceased, grandparents can request custody of a grandchild if the surviving parent:

  1. Has been away from the home for 30 days or more with unknown whereabouts.
  2. Is in state or federal custody.
  3. Has been convicted of specific crimes, such as child abandonment, violating an order of protection against the child or parent, criminal sexual assault, and other crimes.

A legal and biological parent may be unable to receive custody rights due to being an unfit parent. An unfit parent is a term meaning that a parent is unable to care for a child’s basic needs. An unfit parent in Illinois is one who:

  • Abandons their child.
  • Has habitual and untreated substance abuse.
  • Has untreated and dangerous mental illness or mental instability.
  • Places their child in danger or provides an unsafe home environment.
  • Commits child neglect.
  • Is uninterested in the child’s well-being.
  • Is incarcerated.
  • Commits physical or emotional abuse.

The party petitioning for third-party custody has the burden of proof to show that a parent is unfit to care for a child.

Third-Party Visitation Rights

Sometimes, relatives would like to request visitation rights. This may occur if parents refuse to allow grandparents or other relatives time with children. In most situations, the court will give preference to the parents’ wishes.

However, if a relative or other third party can prove that they have a significant relationship with the child, they may have the standing to request visitation rights under a court order. It can be useful to discuss your situation with an attorney to determine if you have the grounds for third-party visitation.


Q: What Are the Different Types of Custody in Illinois?

A: In a child custody determination, there are two types of custody decided in court: legal custody and physical custody.

  • Physical custody refers to where a child lives. In sole physical custody arrangements, the child primarily lives with the custodial parent, and they may live less frequently with or visit the non-custodial parent. In joint custody arrangements, the child lives with each parent for a near-equal amount of time.
  • Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make decisions for their children, such as where they get an education, where they live, where they receive healthcare, and their religious upbringing. Joint legal custody is much more common, as it allows both parents a say in their child’s life.

Q: Does Guardianship Override Parental Rights in Illinois?

A: No, a guardianship does not override or terminate a legal and biological parent’s parental rights. Unless the parent’s parental rights have been terminated, the parent can petition to end the guardianship if their personal situation changes and they are able to care for their child. However, if the court deems it necessary to involuntarily terminate a parent’s parental rights, then the party with guardianship would retain care and responsibility for the child.

Q: Can a Non-Relative Get Custody of a Child in Illinois?

A: Yes, a non-relative can get custody, although it is uncommon. If the individual petitioning for custody is an adult whom the child has lived with for a significant period of time, then they have the legal standing to request custody as a non-relative.

If both legal and biological parents are unfit to raise their child, the court may consider third-party custody. Typically, preference will be given to requests by relatives, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and stepparents. If a child is voluntarily placed or abandoned in the care of a third-party non-relative, they have legal standing to request custody.

Q: Can One Parent Keep a Child From the Other Parent Without Court Orders in Illinois?

A: If there is no court order, then both legal and biological parents have equal rights to their child. If parents are unmarried and there is no established paternity, then the parent who gave birth to the child is the only legal and biological parent.

Usually, a parent cannot keep their child from the other parent, and it can be a crime. However, if the child’s safety is in immediate danger, a parent may have the right to prevent visitation. Additional steps must be taken through the court, including emergency child custody orders.

Contact Stange Law Firm in Springfield, IL

Whether you are a parent defending your right to custody or a third party who wishes to request custody of or visitation rights to a child, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Contact Stange Law Firm today.