In Virginia a third party who is a “person with legitimate interest” may file a petition for custody or visitation of a child. Virginia law defines “person with legitimate interest” broadly to include grandparents, stepparents, former stepparents, blood relatives and family members such as aunts, uncles or adult siblings.

Visitation for Grandparents in Virginia:

In Virginia, there is a presumption that fit parents act in the best interest of their children. Accordingly, so long as a parent is fit, there is no reason for state to inject itself in a family’s affairs to question parent’s ability to make the best decision concerning rearing of the child.

When Both Parents Object to Visitation

Where both parents are in agreement and do not want a grandparent or a person with legitimate interest to have visitation with their child, the court will not order visitation—unless the grandparent seeking visitation can demonstrate (1) that the child would suffer actual harm if visitation were denied AND (2) that there is clear and convincing evidence that visitation with the person is in the best interests of the child.

When One Parent Objects to Visitation

However, where one parent is in favor of providing visitation to a grandparent and the other objects to it, the standard used by the Court to determine a visitation petition by a grandparent is whether visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interests. This standard is much easier to meet than the “actual harm” standard.

In determining visitation cases by grandparents, Court will usually consider the following: the fitness of the parent(s); the length, time, and type of relationship that the petitioning grand parent has had with the child; whether it benefits the child to begin or to continue a relationship with the grandparent; and any objections that one or both parents may raise regarding visitation with the petitioning grandparent. Ultimately the court will seek to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child given all of the evidence before it.

If you are a grandparent seeking custody or visitation with your grandchild, or a parent seeking representation in a visitation or custody case, call us at 571-766-6860 or email us at to schedule a consultation with our experienced attorney.