September 05th 2010 by Charlie Hofheimer
Do grandparents have visitation rights in Virginia? Very often, the answer is ‘yes,’ though not explicitly..’ In most Virginia divorce cases, grandparents do have visitation rights. However, it is limited by the terms and conditions of the court order, if the grandparent wishes to take the custodial parent or parents to court. In Virginia, grandparents are allowed under the law to join what is known as a visitation petition filed by a noncustodial parent or even file an independent petition for the purpose of obtaining a court order for visitation with their grandchildren. Virginia law also allows for grandparents to get custody of their grandchildren.
However, a knowledgeable Virginia divorce lawyer will tell you that determining grandparents’ visitation rights is complicated by the fact that there is no statute dedicated to those rights. Virginia law refers to parents and to “persons of legitimate interest” when it comes to child custody and visitation rights. The latter group includes a host of blood relatives to the child including grandparents, blood relatives, stepparents and other family members. A grandparent, who is the parent of a parent whose custodial or parental rights have been terminated, is not considered a person of legitimate interest.
Virginia, like all other states, recognizes that parents have a fundamental right to the care, custody and rearing of their child. So, the main challenge facing a grandparent is the requirement to prove that the grandchildren will be harmed as a result of not being visited by the grandparents. It is important to remember that only a compelling interest or circumstance would allow a court to order that a grandparent should get custody of or even visit the grandchild.
In any Virginia divorce, the most contentious issue aside from property division is who gets child custody and visitation rights. Very often the grandparents get left out in such a scenario. While it is important for grandparents to realize that they have rights under Virginia law, it is also important to understand that these laws are complicated. An experienced Virginia family law attorney can advocate that a grandparents obtains visitation rights so they can continue to maintain a relationship with their own flesh and blood – their grandchildren.
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