What Are Grandparents Rights? 

Many grandparents share a deep bond with their grandchildren. In today’s world, where both parents may be working out of the home, it is common to find grandparents stepping in and caring for their young grandchildren while the parents are unavailable.

The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is mutually beneficial, with positive effects for those involved. However, there are times when this relationship is threatened due to issues like divorce, death, remarriage of a parent, or a plain old falling out between the parents of a child and the child’s grandparents.

Grandparents in such circumstances may have certain rights to help them stay in their grandchildren’s lives with or without the consent of a parent. These rights, where they exist, can be enforced in court. However, the extent of these rights varies depending on state law and the case’s specific circumstances. 

If you’re a grandparent in Virginia and you’d like to visit, gain custody, or otherwise maintain contact with your minor grandchildren, it is important that you understand the position of the law on your case before you go to court.

At Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC, we can offer personalized legal guidance and representation as you fight for your rights as a grandparent.

In this guide, we explain Virginia’s laws on grandparents’ rights to keep you informed and help you manage your expectations as you prepare for your case. Please read on to learn more. 

What Rights Do Grandparents Have in Virginia?

 

While no specific law is dedicated to Virginia grandparents’ rights, unlike in a few other states, the Virginia Code classifies grandparents as “persons with a legitimate interest.” Persons with legitimate interests are third parties (specifically described by law) other than a parent who may be allowed to take certain steps or care for a child. Those in this category may seek visitation and custody rights over a minor.

Since grandparents fall within this category, it therefore means that you can approach the court as a grandparent to seek visitation rights or custody of your grandchildren or grandchild.

However, these rights are limited by the superior rights of the child’s parents. Virginia courts assume that parents are the most qualified individuals to care for their children and make decisions for them. Grandparents’ rights cannot, therefore, supersede the rights of a capable parent. 

When Will a Court Grant a Grandparent Visitation Rights? 

Grandparents in Virginia may be granted visitation rights by a court. But before the court can award visitation, it will consider several factors, including the following:

  • The child’s well-being

  • The child’s relationship with the parents

  • The extent of the grandparent’s involvement in the child’s life

  • History of abuse, whether by the parents or the grandparents.

If the visits would help the child’s physical or mental health, then the court would most likely grant the requesting grandparent(s) visitation rights.

However, if the grant of visitation rights will interfere with the parent-child relationship or if the parents oppose the request, the court may not grant visitation rights request unless the grandparent can show that the child would be harmed if the request is denied.

In such cases, it is not enough to allege that the child would miss you or grieve the loss of your relationship. You need to show clear and convincing evidence that actual harm would come to the child if the court does not grant the order for visitation rights.

An experienced family law attorney can help you learn how this works so you can prove your case and increase your chances of success if you seek to visit your grandchildren against their parent’s wishes.

When Will a Court Grant a Grandparent Custody? 

In some cases, grandparents can also seek custody of their grandchildren. The court may award grandparents with child custody in such cases if there is evidence that:

  • Both parents are deceased or unfit to care for the child

  • There is a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights to the grandparents by the parents

  • There is abandonment by the parent

  • Other special cases where it serves the best interests of the child. 

The grandparent seeking child custody must again prove that denying physical custody will bring harm to the physical and mental condition of the child.

Because grandparents are not the only category of people classified as “interested persons” for child-related issues, there may be competing claimants from among other relatives who qualify as interested persons. If you are a grandparent in such a position, you’ll need to prove that the child would be better off with you than with any of the other claimants. 

Are There Circumstances When a Grandparent’s Rights Are Terminated?

 

At times, grandparents could lose their “legitimate interest” towards their grandchildren. This happens if the parental rights of the parent from whom the grandparent claims a relationship with the child are terminated because the child has been adopted by others or for any other reason.

In such cases getting custody or visitation rights may be impossible.

 

How To Request or Enforce Your Rights as a Grandparent

To gain visitation rights or custody of your grandchild, you’ll need to file a petition in a juvenile and domestic court, usually in the Virginia county where the child resides.

Your petition should include the facts you’re relying on to show that the child must remain in contact with you or be placed in your custody. You should also be prepared to prove these facts when the judge hears the petition. If the judge decides in your favor, they will grant you custody or visitation rights.

If you’ve already obtained grandparents’ visitation rights or custody, but the child’s father, the child’s mother, or both refuse to cooperate, you can return to court seeking the enforcement of your rights. A family lawyer can help you navigate the enforcement process and ensure that your court-ordered rights over your grandchild are protected.

Contact Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC, To Learn More About Your Custody or Visitation Rights in Virginia.

 

As a grandparent, you deserve to maintain a healthy relationship with your grandchildren. However, it is common to find couples who are in a contested divorce or, in other situations, denying the grandparents from the other side from having such a relationship.

If that is your case, you need to approach the court to get court-ordered visitation rights or even custody of your grandkids, depending on the circumstances.

At Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC, we can help you navigate the complex court procedure as you seek to maintain contact with your grandkids. We understand your concerns about the well-being of your grandchildren, and we can help you convey those concerns to the judge to convince them to decide in your favor.

Contacthttps://www.ashwell.law/contact/ us immediately if you’re seeking visitation rights or custody of your grandchildren or wish to enforce an existing order for visitation rights. Let us help you ensure the physical, mental, and emotional health of your beloved grandkids. 

 We look forward to assisting you.

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