Actively Involved Grandparents Can Seek Visitation Rights
When parents decide to split up, it is not only mom and dad who get to see the children less often. Grandparents also suffer through their children’s divorces and are relegated to only seeing their grandchildren on major holidays. When up to this point a grandparent or two have been actively involved in a child’s life, there may be a way for grandma and grandpa to get visitation to pursue this vital relationship. These situations are rare, since Virginia courts simply expect parents to help maintain this familial connection. However, if it is in the child’s best interests, a court may grant a grandparent or set of grandparents visitation.
Grandparent Visitation Rights in Virginia
When grandparents are concerned that they will be cut off from seeing their grandchildren who they have had a strong, consistent relationship with, they can petition the court to grant them visitation as an interested party. However, where this petition leads will depend on whether one or both parents object to the arrangement. When both parents object to grandparent visitation, the court has a strong objection to overcome. It must find that the child’s health or welfare would be harmed by not seeing his or her grandparent and whether it is in the child’s best interest to have time with grandma or grandpa. Because of these two inquiries, it is extremely difficult for grandparents to get visitation when both parents are against it – though not impossible.
When only one parent objects to grandparent visitation, the court has less to overcome. It will look to see whether time with the grandparents is within the child’s best interests. In both situations, the court is likely to encourage the parents and grandparents to come to an agreement on their own rather than to make this a legal matter and decision.
The Child’s Best Interest Standard
No matter the situation or the parent’s opinions about grandparent visitation, a Virginia court will always analyze whether it is within the best interests of the child if the Court grants an interested party a court hearing. This standard is outlined in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. When determining what is in the child’s best interests, the court will consider:
- The age and physical and mental condition of the child;
- The age and physical and mental condition of the parents and grandparents;
- The existing relationship between the child and parents and grandparents;
- The needs of the child, including important familial relationships;
- The role each parent and grandparent has played in the child’s life and will likely play in the future;
- The propensity of each parent to support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent and grandparent;
- The relative willingness and ability of each parent and grandparent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child;
- The reasonable preference of the child, depending on his or her age, understanding, experience, and intelligence;
- Any family history of abuse; and
- Any other factors the court deems necessary and proper.
Our Leesburg Family Attorneys Can Help
If you are a grandparent who has a close relationship with your grandchildren and you are afraid a divorce will end your chance to see them, call us right away. Our experienced Leesburg family law and child custody attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC understand your concerns and can explain your rights. Call today at 703-997-4982.