One of the realities of couples divorcing is that often in-law relationships break down and sometimes children are kept from seeing one set of grandparents. In these cases, grandparents feel saddened about losing out on watching their grandchildren grow up – or at least seeing them on a regular basis. As a result, grandparents often wonder if they can obtain the legal right for visitation with their grandchildren.

Virginia custody and visitation law

Visitation laws for grandparents vary by state. So, if your grandchildren live in Virginia, you can file a petition for custody or visitation. Legally, you are seen as a “person with legitimate interest” in the child. The law states that grandparents, step-grandparents, stepparents, former stepparents, blood relatives and other family members all can be considered under the “person with legitimate interest” definition.

What the court evaluates for visitation

Of course, a judge does not have to grant you visitation with your grandchild.  If you seek visitation with your grandchild, or custody, the court will evaluate the following about your request:

  • If you are someone who has legitimate interest in the child’s well-being
  • How long and what type of relationship you have had with your grandchild
  • If it will benefit the child for your relationship to continue
  • Any objections that one or both parents have to you gaining visitation or custody

If for some reason both the children’s parents object to you gaining visitation, most likely the court will honor their wishes. However, if you can prove you having visitation with the child is in the best interests, you could gain visitation.

For example, if you as the child’s grandmother or grandfather largely was their caretaker instead of a parent for a while, and you and your grandchild have a close bond because of that, Virginia courts may rule in your favor for visitation. The court may see it in the child’s best interests for you to continue your relationship with your grandchild.

If you would like to pursue visitation rights or custody of a grandchild, you need to consult a family law attorney. An attorney can help you present your best case to have your visitation or custody request granted.