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Virginia Child Custody FAQ

  • I have been raising my grandson since he was born two years ago.  His father is not around, and his mother (my daughter) has been battling a drug and alcohol addiction.  My daughter has recently announced to me that she is now “clean” and wants to take her child and move to another state so she can “start over.”  I do not believe my daughter is capable of taking care of a child, and I am terrified that she will relapse.  Do I have the right to petition the court for custody of my grandson?

Yes.  Anyone with a “legitimate interest” may file a petition for the custody, visitation or support of a child when the child’s custody, visitation or support is a subject of controversy or requires determination.  Examples of a people who may have a “legitimate interest” include grandparents, stepparents or former stepparents, blood relatives and family members.

  • My husband and I didn’t get married until after our child was born.  Is our child legitimate under Virginia law?

Yes, if a person has had a child, afterwards intermarry with the mother or father, and if such child is recognized by both of them, as their own child, the child is deemed to be legitimate.

  • What is a guardian ad litem?

A Guardian ad litem is a lawyer appointed by the Court whose responsibility it is to represent the “best interests” of the child.

  • Is a Court’s decision regarding custody permanent?

Issues involving custody and parental access to a child may always be modifiable if it would be in the child’s best interest.  Courts retain jurisdiction to alter custody arrangements until the child is emancipated.

  • Can my child decide who she wants to live with?

The preference of a child to live with one parent or another is just one factor that the Court must consider in determining custody.  The weight that the Court puts on the factor is influenced by things like the child’s age and maturity.

  • Can I move and take my children out of the state?

It depends.  If there is no court order setting forth custodial arrangements, then neither parent has superior rights to the children and may travel with the children.  However, issues like jurisdiction over custody and a possible divorce can be affected by where a parent and the children reside.  Also, the Courts may not look favorably upon a parent who leaves with the children if it is done to the detriment of the other parent.  It is best to consult with an attorney to discuss a move prior to leaving with the children.

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