The maternal grandparents filed a petition. They wanted permanent and temporary grandparent visitation of their two minor grandchildren.  The mother of the children had been killed in a car accident.  Their father had been seriously injured. Father needed lengthy hospitalization and rehab. The children were 3 and 7 years old at the time of the accident.

The two children lived for 18 months after the accident with their maternal grandparents. Father recovered and remarried. He regained custody of his children after a contentious court battle. Father and his new wife moved with the children to New Mexico.  He cut off all contact with the maternal grandparents.

The court said that fit parents act in the best interests of their children. If Father wanted to cut all ties with the maternal grandparents, that is a fit parent’s right. But, that decision must be made for the children’s best interests. Not the parent’s best interests.

The court noted that grandparent’s evidence and father’s evidence were drastically different pictures.  If grandparent’s witnesses are to be believed, the children greatly enjoy being with their loving, nurturing grandparents. On the other hand, if father’s witnesses are to be believed, grandparents are so nasty to the children that they have nightmares just from talking to them on the phone.

The court said that the children felt the negativity between father and the grandparents. The children were undoubtedly overwhelmed and confused as to the true makeup of their family. The bad blood between grandparents and father affected the children’s mental and emotional health. The court gave the grandparent’s visitation. Father appealed.

The Appellate Court said that the grandparent’s rightfully got visitation. The grandparents had presented expert testimony that young children develop attachments to primary caregivers.  The Court believed that the children formed attachment to the grandparents during this critical development stage.  The children would be damaged emotionally if they were deprived of all visitation with the grandparents.  If the grandparents were denied visitation, the children would be harmed by never knowing a grandparent who loved them. The grandparents had not undermined the parents.

Robinson v. Reif, 2014 IL App (4th) 140244.

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