Two Things to Know about Grandparent Visitation

Grandparents or other family members sometime want to petition for court ordered visitation time with a child.  There are a number of reasons why a Grandparent would want to petition for visitation.  For example, one of the parents is deceased or incarcerated and the other parent doesn’t foster a relationship with the other parent’s family.

Virginia Code Section 20-124.1 grants a court the authority to award visitation to a person with a legitimate interest.  Grandparents, step parents and other family members are included in this definition so long as they have properly intervened in the lawsuit.

The rules for grandparent visitation depend on whether both parents object to the visitation or if one parent objects to the visitation and one parent supports grandparent visitation. *

If Both Parents Object:

If both parents object to a grandparent having visitation with the child, then the grandparent must show that the denial of visitation would result in actual harm to the child’s health and well-being.  If the grandparent is able to satisfy the actual harm standard, the grandparent must also demonstrate that court ordered visitation would be in the child’s best interest.  See Williams v. Williams, 24 Va. App. 778 (1997).


If One Parent Objects and One Parent Supports Visitation:

If only one parent objects to the grandparent having visitation, then the grandparent doesn’t need to satisfy the first requirement of showing actual harm to the child.  The grandparent only needs to show that visitation with the grandparent will be in the best interest of the child.  Removing the need to show actual harm lowers the grandparent’s burden and greatly improves a grandparent’s probability of success.


Grandparent visitation cases are challenging and can involve complex legal arguments.  If you need help with a custody, visitation or divorce case in Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Fort Lee, Hopewell, Petersburg, Prince George, or Sussex. Give us a call at (804) 668-5327 and schedule a consultation to discuss your troubles in more detail.


*The rules for grandparent visitation apply to petitions for visitation by other family members or persons who qualify as persons with a legitimate interest.  We use grandparents in this post as the most common example of a party with a legitimate interest.