Alice is a single mother raising a minor child, E.H.. Cory is the father of E.H. Alice and Cory were never married. They never lived together. Alice and E.H. live with E.H.’s maternal grandparents. Cindy is Cory’s mother and the paternal grandmother of E.H.

Cindy filed a petition for grandparent visitation against Alice. There was a hearing. The court allowed the visitation. It provided for three hours of unsupervised visitation on the second Saturday of each month.

Alice appealed. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court took the case. It reversed the appellate court and the trial court.

Alice argued that Cindy did not prove that denying visitation was harmful to E.H.’s mental, physical or emotional health. The statute required this.

The former grandparent visitation statute had provided that ‘The court may grant reasonable visitation privileges to a grandparent, great-grandparent, or sibling of any minor child …… if the court determines that it is in the best interest and welfare of the child….’

Alice argued that the trial court and the appellate court each applied the “best interests of the child” standard. But that was the older, replaced statute.

Alice argued that the two previous courts engaged in a balancing of facts “for” and “against” grandparent visitation. That was based on the assumption that grandparent-grandchild relationships will almost always benefit the child. It is argued that under this assumption, since a child can only benefit from a relationship with a loving grandparent then, of necessity, the denial of that relationship constitutes harm.

The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the Trial and Appellate Courts.

Neither denial of grandparent visitation nor depriving the child of the opportunity to know a grandparent, who loves him and does not undermine his parent, proves sufficient “harm”.

Flynn v. Henkel, Illinois Supreme Court, No. 103946 (2nd Dist.)

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