For the past few years, you have helped raise your ten-year-old grandson. Since you have taken this active role in your grandson’s life, he has thrived. Recently, your requests for visitation with your grandson have gone ignored, and you have concern as to how your detachment from your grandson will affect him. What legal avenue could you possibly take that would lead back to you being able to spend time with your grandson?
One option available to grandparents is to file a petition for visitation with the court. Although Virginia has made it clear that the courts are to consider the parent-child relationship primary and to not interfere with a parent’s right to raise a child as the parent sees fit, whenever the state has a compelling interest, such as the protection of the welfare of the child, the court may intervene. In order to protect the child’s welfare and do what is best for the child, the court may award visitation, or custody, to anyone with a legitimate interest in the child. The Virginia Code specifically names grandparents as persons with a legitimate interest.
Grandparent Visitation When Both Parents Object
If both parents object to a grandparent having visitation with the child, then before a Virginia court may award the grandparent visitation, the court must first find that there would be an actual harm to the child’s health or welfare absent such visitation with the grandparent. Secondly, if there would be an actual harm to the child’s health or welfare, the court must then determine that there is clear and convincing evidence that visitation with the grandparent is in the best interest of the child.
Grandparent Visitation When Only One Parent Objects
In cases where only one parent objects to grandparent visitation with the child, the Virginia court will bypass the first step (actual harm without grandparent visitation) and move directly to the second step of determining whether visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interest.
In many cases the objecting parents are able to eventually reach visitation agreements with the grandparents, which is generally preferable for all parties involved than putting the question of grandparent visitation to the court to decide.
Cases regarding grandparent custody or visitation rights can raise complex issues. Whether you are the concerned parent or grandparent, it is best to first consult with an attorney to discuss the matter. The custody and visitation attorneys at Livesay & Myers, P.C. are experienced in handling grandparent visitation and custody disputes. We represent clients in Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, Manassas, Woodbridge, Prince William County, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and throughout Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.