Virginia parents have the ability to make decisions for their children, whether or not other people may agree with those decisions. In some cases, a parent will make the decision to stop allowing their child to see their grandparents. In other situations, a parent may move away and lose contact with the child’s grandparents. This most often happens following divorce or the death of the other parent. However, many grandparents have close bonds with their grandchildren and continuing a relationship is understandably important to them. If you would like to try to regain visitation rights to your grandchildren, you should contact an attorney who is experienced in grandparents’ rights cases.
In 2000, the United States Supreme Court decided a case regarding grandparents’ visitation rights, titled Troxel v. Granville. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that a parent’s wishes should be given special weight because “the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children–is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.” Therefore, that case determined that a court should give deference to a parent’s wishes.
Virginia state law
Virginia law also states that the parent-child relationship should be given “primary consideration.” However, the law also allows any person with a legitimate interest in the child’s life to make an argument that visitation would be in the best interests of the child. Grandparents certainly have a legitimate interest in a grandchild’s well-being, and often can make a good case why the child would benefit from a continuing relationship with them. For example, if the grandparent and grandchild have previously spent a lot of quality time together, it may be emotionally harmful to suddenly end that relationship.
While making a case that the court should override a parent’s wishes may be difficult, it is not impossible. If you believe it is in the child’s best interest to have a continuing relationship with you, you should fight for your grandparents’ rights in Virginia. An experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Raymond B. Benzinger can help you fight for your rights. Call our office today at (703) 312-0410 for help.
Though divorce can mean many significant changes for your family, one thing divorce should not automatically affect is a father’s rights to spend time with his children. Divorce does not change or eliminate the parental rights and responsibilities that either parent has under the law. Those rights and responsibilities include having a relationship with your children and helping to financially support them. In many cases, fathers may feel shut out of their child’s life following a divorce, especially if the mother becomes the custodial parent. An experienced family law attorney can help you stand up for your rights as a father.
First, fathers should understand that courts in Virginia do not automatically give any preference to the mother when making custody determinations. In fact, the court focuses on the quality of the relationship between child and parent, not the quantity of time a child has spent with one parent over the other. Therefore, even a stay at home mom would not be inherently favored over a father who worked full time.
Next, even if you do not have primary physical custody, you still have rights regarding your child. There are two types of child custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the time the child is actually physically present with you. Legal custody, however, refers to your ability to make decisions for your child, including education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Therefore, even if you do not have physical custody, you still have the right to be involved in the important decisions about your child’s life.
If you do not have physical custody, you likely have a visitation arrangement. Every father has the right to have the visitation agreement enforced if your child’s mother is not following the agreement. Both parents are expected under the law to encourage and foster a relationship with the other parent. You should not have to deal with a former spouse who unlawfully keeps your children away from you.
In short, fathers should be aware of their rights and should fight for them. If you believe your father’s rights are being violated, you should not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Raymond B. Benzinger at (703) 312-0410. Our experienced Virginia family law attorneys can help you preserve your rights as a father.
Under certain circumstances, such as death or divorce, a custodial parent may choose to limit or terminate a child’s visitation with a set of grandparents or other relative. Understandably, those relatives may have a strong desire to maintain a relationship with the child and may wonder what their legal rights may be in this situation. Though gaining visitation over a parent’s objection may be difficult, it is not always impossible, and an experienced family law attorney can evaluate your situation and advise you of your legal options.
§ 20-124.2 of the Virginia Code sets out the law for custody and visitation determinations of minor children. The law states the court must respect the parent-child relationship as the primary relationship, and in most cases should trust the parent’s judgment in making good decisions for the child. However, the law also gives “any other person with a legitimate interest” the opportunity to bring evidence that visitation with them would be in the child’s best interest.
Though the law does not specifically list all potential persons with a legitimate interest, however such persons may include:
- Former stepparents
- Adult siblings
- Aunts or uncles
- Other blood relatives or family members
If one of the above parties has been cut off from the child, they must present “clear and convincing” evidence that visitation with them would be good for the child. Clear and convincing means that the person seeking visitation must show it is highly and substantially more likely to be true that visitation would serve the best interest of the child. For example, if a grandparent had a very close relationship or care-giving role in the child’s life, suddenly preventing visitation may be emotionally harmful for the child. Also, if the relative can provide evidence that the parent is somehow causing harm to the child, the court will usually make an exception and intervene.
While gaining visitation over a parent’s wishes may be a difficult task, Virginia courts have and do award visitation rights to grandparents and other close family members under some circumstances. Your first step in trying to attain visitation rights should always be to call the Law Offices of Raymond B. Benzinger at (703) 312-0410 for help. Mr. Benzinger has extensive experience in visitation cases and other family law matters and can help you with your case.