GRANDPARENTS' RIGHTS IN VIRGINIA
March 17, 2021
Statistics from GrandFacts indicate that 62,821 grandparents here in Virginia are legally and financially responsible for their grandchildren. In many families throughout Virginia, grandparents play a huge responsibility in raising their grandkids. This may range from nurturing the next generation and forming a strong bond to providing financial support and spending quality time with their grandchildren. In the event of a divorce, the death of a parent, or abandonment, however, the grandparents may need to know more about their rights regarding child custody or visitation.
Attorney Gordon Peters is dedicated to offering experienced legal guidance in matters of grandparents' rights. As an experienced Virginia family law attorney, he will work diligently and compassionately to protect your rights and your family's well-being. Whether you're a grandparent seeking child custody or want to establish a visitation schedule, Gordon can offer you the detailed counsel and advocacy you need to make key decisions.
E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law is proud to serve clients throughout Lynchburg, Blackstone, Campbell County, Amherst County, and Bedford County, Virginia.
Understanding Grandparents' Rights in Virginia
Unlike many other states, there are no independent laws addressing grandparents' rights in Virginia. A grandparent can, however, petition the Virginia court for custody or visitation of their grandchildren. Under Virginia Code Section 20-124.1, a grandparent is referred to as "a person with a legitimate interest."
According to Virginia Code Section 20-124.2, the court shall give due regard to the primacy of the parent-child relationship but may award custody or visitation to any other person with a "legitimate interest" upon showing by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interests of the child.
Determining the Child's Best Interests
In order to determine the child's best interests, the following factors may be considered (Virginia Code Section 20-124.3):
The child's reasonable preference
The age, mental condition, and physical health of the child
The age, mental condition, and physical health of each parent
The existing relationship between the parents and child
The child's needs
The child's relationship with other siblings, peers, and extended family members
Each parent's role or responsibility in caring for the child
The ability of each parent to actively support the child's contact and relationship with the other parent
Each parent's willingness to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child
Each parent's ability to cooperatively resolve disputes regarding matters that affect the child
Any history of domestic violence, family abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, neglect, or abandonment
Other factors as considered necessary by the court
Under Virginia law, the court can award rights to visitation with a child to any person with a legitimate interest. These include family members, grandparents, step-grandparents, and close relatives. In order to award visitation rights to the grandparents, the judge will consider the following factors:
The child's well-being
The physical and emotional needs of the child
The involvement of the parents in the child's life
The existing relationship between the grandparents and the child
Any history of abuse by the grandparents or parents
If the grandparents' visitation serves the child's best interest and doesn't interfere with the parent-child relationship, then the grandparents' petition for visitation may be granted. However, if both parents disagree with the grandparents’ visitation, the grandparents must show by "clear and convincing evidence" that denial of visitation will cause actual harm to the health and welfare of the child.
As mentioned above, the court may award custody to the grandparent upon showing clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interests of the child. This may require the grandparent to prove that:
The child's parents are unfit
The child's parent voluntarily relinquished their parental rights
The parent abandoned the child
Other special facts or exceptional reasons that may prompt the grandparent to take custody of the child from the parent
The Commonwealth of Virginia believes that parents have the constitutional right to raise their kids. Custody will only be awarded to the grandparent under justifying circumstances that warrant such extreme measures.
Get Help from an Experienced Attorney
As a grandparent, filing for custody or visitation in Virginia involves a lot of complicated procedures. Thankfully, Virginia law allows some third parties, including family members, grandparents, step-grandparents, and blood relatives, to petition for child custody or visitation rights. An experienced Virginia family law attorney can offer you the proper guidance you need and help you understand your options.
Attorney Gordon Peters has devoted his career to guiding clients and providing strong advocacy in a variety of legal matters, including grandparents' rights cases. As your legal counsel, Gordon will evaluate the circumstances surrounding your situation and explore your available options. He will fight to protect your rights while focusing on the best interests of your children, grandchildren, and family. Gordon will work diligently to address your needs and concerns and assist you in the direction that works best for you.
If you are trying to apply for custody or visitation rights for your grandchild, contact E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law, today to schedule a one-on-one consultation with an experienced grandparents' rights attorney. Attorney Gordon Peters is proud to serve individuals and families throughout the Lynchburg, Blackstone, Campbell County, Amherst County, and Bedford County areas of Virginia.