Child custody disputes are among the most emotionally complex issues in family law because they involve the competing interests of so many people. These cases aren’t just about the rights and responsibilities of the parents, but also about the best interests of the children. In some cases, they may even involve the interests of other people.
This aspect of child custody often comes up in the context of a grandparent’s desire to visit with a grandchild. Do grandparents have this kind of right?
To understand how this issue might come up, imagine a case where a mother and father have a young girl. The man’s parents enjoy spending time with their grandchild and form a close bond with her. Unfortunately, the parents of the girl have an unhappy relationship with each other. After the father dies suddenly, the mother expresses that she will not allow the grandparents’ relationship with her daughter to continue. When the grandparents ask her directly about it, she
The grandparents miss their granddaughter terribly and petition the court for the right to visitation.
Some states have a specific statute giving grandparents visitation rights in certain situations similar to the one in the example above. Virginia does not. In Virginia, parents and legal guardians generally have the right to decide who should be allowed to spend time with their children. This means they generally have the right to deny the grandparents access to the child.
However, Virginia does allow grandparents and other interested parties to petition the court for visiting rights to see the child. A court may decide to grant these rights if it determines that doing so is in the best interests of the child.
It’s not easy for the petitioner to prevail in this type of case. Courts are reluctant to infringe on the rights of a parent.
That said, sometimes the parties can reach an agreement without having to go to court. If they can’t reach agreement between themselves, they may consider hiring a mediator to facilitate the negotiations between them.
Attorneys with experience in child custody can help all parties to assess their rights and options in these difficult cases.