Grandparents often play an important role in a child’s life, and both grandparent and grandchild may suffer if they are unable to see each other. If one or more parent objects to a grandparent having visitation with a child, grandparents may wonder what their rights are.
Virginia courts treat the parent-child relationship as primary, and they will not intervene unless there is a compelling interest at stake, such as the welfare of the child. In order to protect a child’s welfare, a court may award visitation rights to anyone with a legitimate interest in the child, including grandparents.
Grandparents who are denied visitation with their grandchildren may file a petition for visitation with the court. If both parents object to the grandparent having visitation, then a court must find that there would be actual harm to the child’s health or welfare if visitation were not permitted, and must find that there is clear and convincing evidence that the best interest of the child is served by visitation with the grandparent. If only one parent objects, then the court does not need to find actual harm if visitation were denied, but just clear and convincing evidence that visitation would serve the child’s best interest.
Grandparent visitation can raise complex legal issues, and should be discussed with a skilled and knowledgeable family law attorney.