What Rights do Grandparents Have for Visitation in Virginia?
If you are a grandparent trying to secure rights to see your grandchild, there is something in Virginia that allows you to have visitation rights, but it’s not an easy process. A grandparent can petition for visitation on their own, or it can be included in a petition that is filed by the non-custodial parent.
The Code of Virginia Title 20, Chapter 6.1, §20-124.1 defines a person with a legitimate interest in the child to include grandparents. However, just because there is a reference in the Virginia statutes, it doesn’t mean the court will automatically recognize your rights in the parents’ divorce and custody battle. If you want to petition for grandparents’ visitation rights, it’s imperative you contact a Virginia grandparent rights attorney to help you through this complex process.
Courts will give automatic preference to your grandchild’s parents when it comes to custody. If both parents are in agreement that they want to keep their child away from you as the grandparent, it’s not likely the court will go against both parents’ wishes. In order to get visitation rights, you would need to prove that your grandchild would suffer actual harm if he or she did not have your visitation. Proving this is extremely hard, especially in situations where the parents are not allowing visitation in the first place.
Defining Actual Harm
To define “actual harm” in this scenario requires evidence than your grandchild would suffer due to a lack of contact with you. You must prove that there will be certain harm that comes to him or her without you being in your grandchild’s life.
Asking for Visitation
Because the Code of Virginia recognizes a grandparent as someone with a legitimate interest, you have the right to request visitation. Don’t be surprised if the court process appears cold and callous. The court is required to look out for the child’s best interest. That means you could be asked to submit to a psychological evaluation or a mental health exam.
Ways to Rebut Parental Custody
If you are wanting to get custody of your grandchildren, you have to rebut the automatic presumption that their parents are the best option for custody. Some of the ways you can do this include:
- Proving the parents are unfit;
- Abandonment by the parents;
- A previous divestiture order;
- Parents voluntarily relinquishing custody; or
- Unique circumstances and facts that prove there is an extraordinary reason your grandchild should be taken from his or her parent(s).
Grandparent’s Loss of Legitimate Interest
There are rare cases where a grandparent may not qualify as having a legitimate interest as outlined in the state laws. This is when the parental rights of the child’s parents have been terminated or when your grandchild has been adopted by anyone other than his or her stepparent.
Retaining a Virginia Grandparents Rights Attorney
If you are a grandparent who is seeking visitation rights or custody of your grandchildren, it’s important you don’t attempt this process on your own. Having the guidance of a skilled Leesburg family law attorney is crucial as these cases are complex. Contact the experienced team of attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.