Grandparent custody rights in Virginia are a hot topic and the situation most often arises when the parents of the grandchild are not acting in that child’s best interest. In these cases, the grandparents are forced to file what is known as a 3rd party petition for custody. In order to be successful, the petitioner must show several additional items other than what is in the child’s best interests.
First, they must show that they are what is known as “a person with a legitimate interest.” Blood relatives are presumed to be persons with a legitimate interest. Second, the person must show by “clear and convincing evidence” that it is in the child’s bests interests to have custody or visitation given to the 3rd party. There are only five recognized avenues in Virginia that allow for this to be done. The one that is most common is that the petitioner proves that the parents are unfit. Finally, in cases where only visitation is requested, the Virginia Courts have ruled that the petitioner must demonstrate that “actual harm” will occur to the child if visitation is not granted. This is a higher standard than if the petitioner asked for full custody of the child.
In Virginia, parents enjoy a very high level of protection from the perceived intrusion of 3rd parties such as grandparents into their relationships with their children. The lawyers at Bush & Taylor have tried countless grandparent custody and visitation cases in cities such as Virginia Beach and Suffolk and have been successful in having custody transferred to grandparents and others. If you would like to discuss your 3rd party case call today.