The holiday season brings with it the promise of joy and togetherness. Yet, for separated…
A parent can’t legally give their child’s grandparent custody of the child. However, the court might award custody under specific circumstances.
You must follow specific laws and procedures for a court to grant custody to your child’s grandparents. An experienced family law attorney can advise you of your rights and guide you through each step.
Understanding Grandparent Custody
The person who has custody of a child is legally authorized to provide care and make decisions for a child. The court can grant custody to biological grandparents, but before they do that, parental rights must be severed. Because Virginia has a “parental presumption” that says the child’s best interests are served by being in the custody of one or both parents, the person who wants custody must overcome that presumption.
If you’re a parent who wants the grandparents to have custody of your child, you can voluntarily relinquish custody. The next step is proving that the best interests of the child are served by giving custody to the grandparents.
Custody Rights of Grandparents in Virginia
In Virginia, the courts can use three separate laws to decide how to award custody of a child involving biological grandparents:
- According to Virginia Code 20-124.1, a person with a legitimate interest includes grandparents if they have intervened in the lawsuit or appeared before the court.
- Virginia Code 20-124.2 permits someone to gain custody of a child if they meet the legal definition of a person with a legitimate interest if custody is in the child’s best interests.
- Virginia code 20-124.3 outlines the guidelines the courts must use to determine whether a custody decision meets the child’s best interest.
Circumstances for Awarding Custody to a Grandparent
The court can award custody of a child to their grandparent if any of these circumstances apply:
- Abandonment or neglect – A grandparent can assume court-order custody of a grandchild if the parents neglect or deserve their child without any regard for their age or well-being.
- Prior order of divestiture – The court can grant custody to a grandparent if there is a previous order to take the child away from the parent due to drug or alcohol abuse, violence, or physical or emotional abuse.
- Parental unfitness – The court might determine the parents are unfit to care for their child, allowing a grandparent to become the legal guardian.
- Voluntary relinquishment – If the parents willingly relinquish custody, the court can award custody to the grandparent.
- Special circumstances – Special circumstances or facts of the case might show it isn’t in the child’s best interest to remain in their parent’s custody.
Determining a Child’s Best Interest
The courts must decide whether a custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest by considering factors such as:
- The child’s needs regarding relationships outside the parent-child relationship
- The child’s reasonable preferences if they’re at an age and with appropriate experience and intelligence to express their preference properly
- Each parent’s physical and mental condition and age
- The role both parents play in caring for their child
- A history of sexual abuse, child abuse, family abuse, or violence occurring within the previous ten years
- The child’s age and physical and mental condition
- The existing relationship between the parent and child
- Additional factors deemed necessary by the court
Fight for Custody with Help from Pincus Goodman, P.C.
Gaining custody of a grandchild is a complicated process despite a grandparent’s rights under Virginia law. Whether you’re a parent who wants your own parents to have custody of your child or a grandparent pursuing custody, hiring an experienced attorney is crucial. You must not handle your case alone.
Pincus Goodman, P.C., will develop a strategic plan to protect your interests, meet the child’s needs, and try to achieve a favorable outcome. Call us today at (757) 301-9634 for a confidential consultation in Virginia Beach.