Chance of success
There are several questions to ask yourself before starting a visitation court case.
- Who are you filing a case against? Can they give you what you are asking for if you win the case?
- Why are you filing a case? Do you have enough information to support your side?
Costs of a court case
It costs time and money to file a case in court. Court cases may take several months and even a year or years to finish. Court cases often include:
- Fees to file your case, if you cannot get them waived
- Lawyer fees or your own time spent figuring out the court process and doing the paperwork
- Time spent in court, which may be time you have to take off work
Other options besides going to court
There are other options besides going to court that cost less and are faster.
- Settle: Come to an agreement with the other party on your own. You have more control of the outcome because a judge is not making the final decision.
- Mediation: Reach an agreement with the other party with the help of a neutral third party. The mediator does not decide what happens. The mediator helps you reach an agreement that is documented in a contract that both parties must follow.
1. Fill out your visitation forms
You will need to provide the following information:
- Your name and address;
- The child's name;
- The child's birth date;
- The parent's name (the parent the child lives with);
- Your relationship to the child (you must be a grandparent, great-grandparent, step-parent, or sibling of the child)
- How parentage was established (if you're a grandparent or great-grandparent on the father's side);
- That the parent has unreasonably stopped you from spending time with the child;
- That the child is being harmed by not being able to spend time with you;
- That you want the court to give you visitation with the child; and
- One of the following:
- The child was born out of wedlock, and the parents are not living together;
- A parent is dead or has been missing for at least 90 days (they must have been reported as missing to the police);
- A parent of the child is incompetent;
- A parent has been in jail or prison for the last 90 days; or
- The child's parents are divorced or legally separated, or there is a pending divorce case or other case involving parental responsibilities or parenting time, and at least one parent does not object to the nonparent having visitation with the child.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, you should also fill out the below application:
- Application for Waiver of Court Fees: Ask the court to participate in the court case for free if you do not have money to pay the court filing fees.
2. File your forms with the court
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Some counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If you can paper file or have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations.
- If there is already a case: You will have to file your petition, in that case, using the Case Number.
- If there isn't a case yet: You should file your petition in the court in the county where the child lives. If you file your petition in a circuit where the child does not live, the court may move the case.
There is a fee to file most forms. The cost depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.
When you file your forms with the clerk they become part of the case. The clerk will stamp your forms. This stamp is important because it's proof that you filed the form with the court.
- E-filing: The documents you want to file with the court have to be uploaded into the system. You will need to create an account. See E-filing Basics for details.
- Paper filing: If you are paper filing bring the forms to the clerk at the courthouse in the county where you are filing. Bring all your copies and the originals with you when you file. Ask the clerk to stamp all your forms. They will keep the original. Keep at least one copy for your records. See courthouse locations.
3. Tell the other party about your case
You will have to wait until the parents are served with the petition and summons. You can call the clerk to find out when the petition and summons were served on the parents.
If the sheriff cannot serve the parents, you will have to try to serve them again. You cannot move forward with the case until the parents are served.
4. Get a hearing date
After the parent is served, you need a court date.
How you will find out about the court date (or hearing date) and time depends on how you filed your case.
- E-filing: The website you used to electronically file may let you pick your court date (or hearing date) and time. If it does not, contact the clerk.
- Paper filing: If you filed in person at the courthouse, the clerk will let you pick or they may pick for you.
Once you have a court date, fill out a Notice of Hearing, and make 2 extra copies. Mail one copy to the parent, by regular mail. Keep one copy for your records.
After mailing the Notice of Hearing, fill out the Proof of Mailing – Notice of Hearing. Make one copy.
5. Go to the hearing
Follow these suggestions when going to court:
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time;
- Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk;
- Check-in quietly with the courtroom staff;
- Wait for your name and case number to be called; and
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself;
- Explain briefly what you want out of the case;
- After listening to you and to the other side, the judge will let you know what happens next.
At the hearing, you will have a chance to explain to the judge why you should get visitation with the child. Remember that there are several things you have to prove to get court-ordered visitation. If the parent shows up, the judge will also listen to why they think you should not get visitation with the child.
The judge might not make a decision that day, so you should be prepared to come back to court multiple times.
When the judge makes a decision, he or she will issue an order. If you win, this is the legal document that gives you the right to visit with the child. It will say when you get to spend time with the child and how. Keep a copy of this order for your records.
If this is your first time going to court, learn more about the process of going to court in Illinois.
6. Send a copy of the order to the child's parent
If the other parent does not come to court, and the judge signs an order giving you visitation rights, mail the parent a copy of the order by regular mail.
Updated: January 2018