Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C.

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Custody and guardianship of minors in Virginia

Even with the continued evolution of what constitutes a family, many people in Virginia still consider the standard nuclear family of a mother, a father and the children to be the norm. While this may be true, it is far from the only definition of a family. There are many single-parent households, blended families, same-sex marriages with children and more that make that point very clear. In addition, there are several instances in which a grandparent may be raising children instead of the biological parents. In some of these cases, the grandparents may actually have legal guardianship over their grandchildren.

As explained by the Prince William County Clerk of Circuit Court, a grandparent may obtain guardianship of a minor child either by direct application to a court or by the terms of a parent's will. In both cases, the grandparent is said to have guardianship of the person. In the latter case, the guardianship of a form of testamentary guardianship as it is based upon the last will and testament of a parent. This guardianship makes a grandparent legally responsible for the child until the age of 18.

If guardianship of a minor's estate is needed, that is a separate process as that is called a guardianship of the estate of a minor. Again, grandparents may apply for this or be granted this responsibility in a parental will.

It is important to note that guardianship is not the same thing as custody. The Fairfax County Courthouse indicates that in order to obtain physical custody of another person's child, a custody hearing may be required.




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