Virginia law places particular emphasis on parents’ rights in raising children but is less specific about the rights and roles of grandparents. Thus, if you have been denied access to your grandchildren by one or both parents, you must provide powerful evidence that time with Grandma and Grandpa are crucial to your grandchildren’s well-being.
As a person of legitimate interest (a category that includes not only grandparents but also other relatives and interested parties), you are qualified to pursue either visitation or custody, whether your goal is to simply spend weekends with family or to provide stability and support for your grandchildren when their parents are struggling to make ends meet or coping with other life challenges. In most cases, the best interests of the child are the default standard for Virginia courts, according to the Culpeper Times. This means that when only one parent is opposed to grandparent visitation, you must simply prove before the court that your time with your grandchildren is both beneficial and in their best interests.
When both parents are opposed to the possibility of visitation, however, the situation is trickier. Here, you must provide incontrovertible proof not only that your absence is not in your grandchildren’s best interest but also that it causes them actual harm. You may see this as being self-evident, but the court is unlikely to agree, so it is often necessary to make your case with the support of a professional who is familiar with the case, knows your grandchildren and is qualified to provide statements with regard to their mental and emotional health.
Furthermore, when both parents oppose grandparent visitation or custody, you are tasked with proving that you have rights based on a previous court order, that the parents are unfit, or that unusual circumstances, such as child abandonment, exist. If you can argue your case successfully, the court turns, once again, to the matter of the best interests of the child.
This information is provided for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice.