Posts Tagged ‘Grandparent’

Who Gets Custody of the Children — Take 2

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Some time ago I wrote a blog post on Who Gets Custody of the Children and the information there is still valid.

But that post assumed that the children were born during a marriage that was ending in divorce, which is not always true.  More and more children are being born into ‘relationships’ that do not have the benefit of a marriage ceremony.   And often these children have siblings with different fathers or mothers and the child may be very close to a step-parent.  And often the children are actually living with grandparents, or other relatives, who have taken over the parenting role.

What happens in these complicated situations?

The basic rule of  doing what is in the best interest of the child still stands, but there are some additional hurdles that must be considered.  First of all, there is a presumption in Virginia that being with the natural parents is in the best interest of the child. If someone other than a natural, biological parent wants to have custody of the child, they must first prove that the bias for the natural parent is wrong in this case.  Generally this means that the other person must prove that it would be harmful for the natural parent to be granted custody.

This often puts the entire family at odds with each other as Grandma goes into court and says that her own child is not a fit mother or father for the grandchild.  Often, there is evidence of drug abuse or other activity that the courts use to determine that the child really is better off with Grandma and Grandma is granted custody.

Or it might be that the biological parents are really too young to be able to take care of the child and they willingly give up custody to Grandma who might be in her late 30s or early 40s and is more established.  Grandma is also still at an age when she could have more children of her own and she is looking forward to being a mother again.

Fast forward a few years and now one or both of the biological parents are finishing school and getting on their feet and they now want to take over the parenting role for their child.

The courts will look at all of the evidence about the lifestyle of all of the parties, and at the relationship that the child has with each of them.  The judge will still make the decision based on what is in the best interest of the child given all of the facts surrounding this particular case.

If the biological parents have had little contact with the child, the courts might order that the primary custody stay with the grandparent for a time and the biological parents be given increasing visitation so that the child can form a relationship with the parent with a goal of moving custody to the parent in the future.

If the biological parents have had a lot of contact with the child and there is already a bond between the parent and child, the courts are more likely to grant custody to the parent and the grandparents will then become what they were meant to be….grandparents.

Based on what I said before, the grandparents with custody might decide that the best path for them to take is to keep the child from visiting with their biological parents and that way they can keep custody.  But remember #6 in the factors to be considered when determining custody.  The courts will not look kindly on any custodian who keeps the child away from the biological parents without a really good reason, and that in itself might be enough for the courts to decide that custody must be taken from Grandma and given to the biological parent.

Also, as I mentioned last week, relocation may be a problem.  As I said before, the courts cannot keep YOU from leaving the area, but the courts may be able to stop you from taking the child with you.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at