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Can Grandparents Have Visitation Rights as Part of a Divorce Settlement in Virginia?

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Can Grandparents Have Visitation Rights as Part of a Divorce Settlement in Virginia?

November 07 2023
By Faye Carroll

When a couple with minor children decides to separate and divorce, the focus often revolves around the rights and custody arrangements of the parents involved. However, the well-being and relationships of children extend beyond their parents.

In Virginia, grandparents may also have a vested interest in maintaining a relationship with their grandchildren, which leads to an important question: Can grandparents have visitation rights as part of a divorce settlement in Virginia?

Let’s look at the legal framework and considerations involved when grandparents want to maintain visitation rights through a separation and divorce.

Understanding Grandparents’ Visitation Rights

In Virginia, grandparents usually don’t have automatic visitation rights. The state recognizes the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding their children’s contact with extended family members.

However, Virginia law does provide a way for grandparents to pursue visitation rights under certain circumstances. Virginia Code § 20-124.2 allows grandparents to file a petition for visitation if it is deemed in the child’s best interest.

While the court tends to favor the parents’ wishes regarding visitation, they will consider various factors when determining whether granting grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interest.

Factors Considered by the Court

Virginia courts will consider several factors to determine if allowing grandparent visitation is the right decision for the child. Some of these factors include:

  • The prior role and relationship of the grandparents to the child.
  • The physical and emotional well-being of the child.
  • The parents’ reasoning for denying (or approving) grandparent visitation.
  • The child’s preferences if they are of sufficient age and maturity to express them.
  • Any potential impact on the child’s existing custody and visitation arrangements.
  • The motives and intent of the grandparent seeking visitation.

It’s important to note that these factors are not exhaustive, and the court may consider other relevant aspects while making their decision.

The Burden of Proof

To obtain visitation rights, grandparents have the burden of proving that it is in the child’s best interest for the court to grant visitation. This means demonstrating that visitation will promote the child’s well-being, physical and emotional health, and overall development.

Providing proof could include showing that:

  • It would disrupt the child’s schedule to deny grandparent visitation rights.
  • The child has a positive and meaningful relationship with one or both grandparents.
  • The grandparents are or have been regular caregivers for the child.

Mediation and Alternative Options

While litigation can be an option, Virginia courts often encourage mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods to address grandparent visitation. These processes provide an opportunity to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom, allowing both sides to find a mutually satisfactory arrangement that prioritizes the best interests of the child.

Have Questions About Grandparent Visitation Rights in Virginia?

So, do grandparents have a legal right to see their grandchildren after a divorce? Not necessarily.

However, Virginia recognizes the importance of family relationships beyond the immediate parents in divorce and custody proceedings. While grandparents do not have automatic visitation rights, they can file a petition to establish visitation if it is deemed in the child’s best interest.

Understanding the legal framework and engaging in productive dialogue or mediation with the parents can greatly increase the chances of obtaining visitation rights for grandparents, and an experienced family lawyer can help you do this.

Have more questions about grandparents’ visitation rights after a divorce in Virginia? Contact Virginia Family Law Center, P.C., today to schedule your consultation.

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