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Child custody and visitation for non-parents

Under Virginia law, people who are not the parents of a child may apply for custody if they are a relative, stepparent, former stepparent or anyone who has filled a similar role in relation to the child. Both parents are also able to seek custody of the child, and the parents will be given preference in a custody dispute unless they are shown to be unfit.

Grandparents may seek a visitation order with their grandchild. The evidence required to be proved in court will depend on whether one or both parents object to the visitation. If one parent objects while the other one approves of visits, the grandparents will need to prove to the court that ordering visitation is in the best interests of the child.

When grandparents are seeking visitation with a grandchild and both parents object and are fit parents, the grandparents will have to prove to the court that allowing them visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child.

In some cases, one or both parents will keep a child from seeing his or her grandparents for any number of reasons. In such situations, it is possible for a grandparent to petition the court for grandparent visitation rights. Grandparents who are seeking visitation must be prepared to present evidence in order to prove to the court that such visitation is in the child's best interests, and if both parents are objecting, they should be prepared to further demonstrate that their grandchild's health and welfare may be harmed if the requested visits were to be denied. Because it can be difficult to understand how to effectively present evidence, they may benefit by seeking the assistance of a family law attorney.

Source: Womenslaw.org, "Custody", November 26, 2014

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