In some families, grandparents are such an integral part of a child’s life, it is easy to assume that they automatically have custody rights. After all, more grandparents are raising children compared to past generations. According to a 2012 U.S. Census Bureau report, 7 million grandparents had at least one grandchild living with them.
Despite the number of grandparents involved with their grandchildren, grandparent’s rights are not automatically given. Instead, a grandparent must petition the court to have parenting time in the same fashion that an unmarried father must do.
The rationale is that even though a grandparent is related by blood, the right to determine and execute parenting time lies with natural parents. Nevertheless, grandparents are viewed under Virginia law as a “person with a legitimate interest” in a child’s welfare and are able to petition for parenting time rights.
With that, a family court judge considers several factors in determining whether parenting time with grandparents furthers the child’s best interests, including:
-The child’s overall health and safety
-The location of the grandparent’s home relative to where the child lives
-The child’s age
-Any wishes or concerns raised by the parents
-Any criminal issues involving child abuse or neglect
Grandparents commonly seek legal intervention to establish parenting time in situations involving unmarried parents. Additionally, paternal grandparents (parents of an unmarried father), may have the additional hurdle of having the father legally recognized as a parent before a grandparents’ rights can be established.
If you have additional questions about your rights as a grandparent, an experienced family law attorney can help.
The preceding is not legal advice and is presented for informational purposes only.