Grandparents and grandchildren can both benefit from a close relationship. In fact, a study from the University of Oxford found that grandparents play a critically important role in a child’s social development and overall well-being. Of course, families can be complicated. There may be situations where a grandparent is struggling to get time with their grandchildren.
This raises an important question: Can a grandparent obtain child visitation rights in Virginia? The answer is ‘yes’. However, in practice, doing so can often be challenging. Here, our Chesapeake, VA visitation rights attorneys highlight the most important things that you need to know about establishing grandparent visitation rights in Virginia.
Parties of ‘Legitimate Interest’ Can Seek Visitation Rights
One of the most important cases in the area of grandparent rights is the United States Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville. Originating out of Washington state, the appeals court initially denied a grandparent’s petition for visitation rights on the grounds that granting it would unconstitutionally impinge on parental rights. However, the nation’s highest court held that state family law courts have the authority to grant third parties visitation rights, if doing so is in the child’s best interests.
Under Virginia law (Va. Code § 20-124.2), non-parental third parties of ‘legitimate interest’ can seek child visitation rights in court. Notably, our state defines the term ‘legitimate interest’ broadly. This means that grandparents, adult siblings, aunts, uncles, and even former stepparents may all potentially be able to obtain visitation rights in Virginia.
Virginia Courts Must Give ‘Due Regard’ to the Parent-Child Relationship
While grandparents may be able to get child visitation rights in Virginia, it is not necessarily easy to do so. The Virginia state statute on this issue requires a family court to give “due regard” to the parent-child relationship. These courts will typically give some deference to the judgement of the child’s parents. If a child’s parent wants to deny a grandparent a relationship with their grandchild, there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent has the authority to do so. However,
a grandparent can overcome this presumption if they can prove through clear and convincing evidence that it is in the child’s best interests to grant them visitation rights.
The bottom line: It can be challenging for grandparents to get visitation rights over the vigorous objections of the child’s parents. But, it is possible to do so. Grandparents seeking visitation rights must be prepared to present a strong and compelling legal case that it is in the best interests of their grandchild to award them with visitation rights.
Get Help From Our Virginia Child Visitation Lawyers Today
At Shannon & Associates, P.C., our Virginia grandparent rights attorneys are committed and compassionate advocates for our clients. If you have any questions or concerns about grandparent rights or grandparent visitation, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a fully confidential consultation. With offices in Chesapeake and Suffolk, we handle family law cases throughout the Hampton Roads region.