When divorce comes with the pain and anxiety of a custody battle, grandparents may fear that they will lose contact with their beloved grandchildren. However, Virginia grandparents have a strong case in court for visitation rights regardless of which parent receives custody.
Under Virginia law, matters of custody and visitation must be decided according to the best interests of the child. This means that custody or visitation rights may be granted to "persons with a legitimate interest" in the child. The judge may interpret this term broadly to make the best decision for the child. Grandparents are among the many individuals who may be considered as persons with legitimate interest, particularly if they have argued their case before the court or played a role in the suit for custody.
Virginia law also includes step-grandparents within the realm of persons with legitimate interests. This means that in the case of a custody fight between a stepparent and a biological parent, step-grandparents will not necessarily lose access to the step-grandchildren with whom they have bonded.
As noted by Family Studies, grandparents' visitation rights were the focus of Troxel v. Granville, which was brought before the Supreme Court of the United States in 2000. In this case, Justice Stevens's primary focus was on what is best for the child. He argued that although children's interests in maintaining familial ties have not been legally defined, their welfare and preferences should, in fact, be considered crucial components in determining visitation rights. Even when emotions are running high during a divorce, parents' ultimate aim should be to arrive at the solution that is best for their children, which often means allowing them to stay in close contact with Grandma and Grandpa.