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What rights do grandparents have in a divorce?

Grandparents and grandchildren share a special bond. It's also one that may be overlooked in a divorce. If there is a custody dispute, the role of the grandparents may not be the focus, but it is an important consideration.

The primary goal in child custody is to determine what is in the best interest of the kids. Family conflicts are emotional and difficult, and ignoring a child's relationship with his or her grandparents could be devastating.

Grandparent visitation

While Virginia law does not guarantee grandparents the right to visitation, there is a statute that allows grandparents to pursue visitation. If the parties negotiate child custody, parents and grandparents can come to a mutual visitation agreement.

However, if custody is contentious and ends in a court battle, grandparents may need to fight for their own visitation rights. This may come at the objection of a parent, which means the courts will attempt to determine what is in the best interest of the child.

Third-party custody

In some cases, grandparents may be able to pursue custody of their grandchildren. Most courts will side with the parent in a court battle, so winning third-party custody can be difficult. However, again, courts primary concern is acting in the best interest of the child.

There are five primary factors in courts awarding third-party custody:

  1. Parental unfitness
  2. A previous order of divestiture
  3. Voluntary relinquishment
  4. Abandonment
  5. Special circumstances that constitute an extraordinary reason for keeping the child from his or her parents

Third-party cases are complex and often require litigation. However, if you are a grandparent who wishes to maintain your special bond with your grandchild or grandchildren, you should pursue every means for doing so.

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