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Can grandparents seek visitation rights following a divorce?

The bond between a grandparent and their grandchild can be loving and strong. So, when that bond is severed due to divorce, grandparents may wonder if they have any right to visitation with their grandchild. The Code of Virginia §20-124.2 addresses this issue.

Under this law, the parent-child relationship comes first. However, if it can be shown by clear and convincing evidence that it would be in the child’s best interests to have visitation with another person with a “legitimate interest,” then the court may award visitation time to that person. People with a legitimate interest include grandparents under Virginia law, unless the grandparent’s adult child has lost their parental rights to the child.

As this shows, while it is possible for grandparents in Virginia to have visitation with their grandchild post-divorce, being awarded visitation can be challenging. The “clear and convincing” evidence standard is a very high bar to meet, as is the presumption that the child’s relationship with his or her parents is in the best interests of the child. Even determining what the child’s best interests are can be difficult, although there are statutory factors the court will consider when making such a decision.

But, grandparents who want to have visitation with their grandchild after a divorce should not lose hope. Oftentimes, parents recognize that their child deserves to have a meaningful relationship with his or her ex-spouse’s parents and will voluntarily allow such a relationship to continue. And, if a parent is denying a grandparent visitation with their grandchild following an acrimonious divorce, grandparents may have the option of pursuing visitation through the legal system.

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