Private matters regarding custody and visitation of children can be sensitive and emotional. Laws are set in place to help families navigate these situations in a more transparent, understandable, and fairer way. These laws put the best interests of the child or children first. Consequently, when determining Virginia custody and visitation rights, non-parents have to follow the laws, even if they are grandparents. These regulations are set in place to ensure that children are protected and well represented by the state.
In Virginia, the law requires that non-parents seeking visitation must have what they consider to be a legitimate interest in the child. This requirement is enforced even if the person is a relative like a grandparent. What does legitimate interest entail? Legitimate interest includes the age, physical and mental state of the child, what the child needs, and what the child prefers if of reasonable age and understanding. If one or both parents are opposed to the visitation, then it becomes the grandparent’s burden to prove that the child not having visitation with them would cause harm and dysfunction. If the child’s parents are not in agreement about visitation, the burden still falls on the grandparents to prove that visitation would be in the child’s best interest.
In custody cases, it also becomes the burden of the grandparents to prove their legitimate interest. Also, their purpose for seeking custody must be clear and show that the child’s parents are unfit, that there was a previous order of divestiture, that there was a voluntary relinquishment, or that the parent has abandoned the child. In Virginia, the law requires that the circumstances be dire enough to take custody away from the parents and reward it to non-parents, including grandparents.
Reaching an Agreement
In some cases, parents experience situations that require the intervention or help from the child’s grandparents. When this happens, custody can be transferred from the parents to the grandparents in an agreement arranged by a court order. For schools and doctors to recognize this transfer, it must be prepared by an attorney to ensure that the deal is entirely lawful.
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