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Can Virginia grandparents seek custody of their grandchildren?

It is common to see children being raised by individuals who are not their parents. As residents of Alexandria City, Virginia, may know, these are most often members of the parents' immediate family, such as the children's grandparents. While there are a number of reasons why parents rely on this wider circle of acquaintances when it comes to raising their children, sometimes grandparents or others need to take on complete parental duties.

One scenario in which grandparents may seek custody of their grandchildren is if the parents cannot provide the necessary care, for various reasons. Per Virginia's child custody laws, if either parent has been awarded sole custody of the children and it can be proven that that parent is incapable of caring for them, then grandparents may petition the court for custody. However, courts may only entertain such a petition if there's evidence of child abuse, mistreatment or neglect by the parent.

It generally is necessary for the grandparents and grandchildren to live in the same home state, as defined by law, for courts to even consider a custody petition. In cases in which abuse may be a concern, it may be sufficient that the grandchildren be in the same state, even if they don't meet the home state condition. Depending on the circumstances, grandparents may even seek to adopt their grandchildren.

Often, judges may not think that grandparents are the best choice when it comes to looking after their grandchildren. This has much to do with the typical grandparents' ages and their health, which may not be ideal for the long-term care of the children. Further, grandparents tend to be retired and usually are living off savings; the fear is that the grandparents may have insufficient financial resources to provide for the grandchildren's various needs.

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension, "Grandparents Rearing Grandchildren: Rights and Responsibilities," accessed on Sept. 25, 2014

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124 South Royal Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

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