Do stepparents have custody rights in Virginia?

How Our Norfolk Family Law Lawyers Can Protect Your Rights to Visitation and Custody If You’re a Stepparent 

The attorneys at Tavss Fletcher help individuals in Norfolk and Virginia Beach file for divorce and assist with other family law issues. If you are a stepparent, our experienced Norfolk family law lawyers can explain your options and will protect your rights to custody and visitation of your stepchildren. 

Stepparent custody rights in VirginiaIf you are a stepparent in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, you may wonder about your rights regarding custody and visitation of your stepchild if you are getting a divorce or are separating from your spouse. In Virginia, the rights of stepparents in custody matters are limited, but they can be pursued under specific circumstances. 

Stepparents' Legal Rights in Virginia

Stepparents do not have legal rights unless they have adopted a stepchild in Virginia. Unless you have legally adopted your stepchild, you do not have inherent rights to custody, visitation, or decision-making authority over the child. This means that in the absence of a formal adoption, you may not have access to the child or the right to be involved in decisions about their upbringing.

Stepparents' Ability to Pursue Custody or Visitation Under Virginia Law

Virginia considers stepparents to have a legitimate interest in a child's well-being. This recognition allows stepparents to petition the court for custody or visitation rights if the biological parent objects to this, provided they can prove that awarding such rights is in the best interests of the child under Virginia Code § 20.124.3.

To establish their case, a stepparent must demonstrate that the child would be harmed if custody or visitation is not granted and that the stepparent has an ongoing, sincere relationship with the child. Our experienced Norfolk family law lawyers understand the factors the court will consider when making this determination and can help you present evidence showing that your request is in the best interests of your stepchildren. Here are the factors the court will weigh.

  • Length of relationship. The court will assess the duration and depth of your relationship with your stepchild.
  • Stepparent’s involvement. The court will consider how actively you have been involved in the child's life, especially in the absence of the biological parent.
  • Emotional and financial ties. If you can show that you have strong emotional ties with the child and provide for the child's financial support, this will help you convince a judge that you should be granted custody or visitation.
  • Shared activities. The court will consider your shared activities and interests with your stepchild, which can demonstrate the strength of your bond with them.
  • Harm to the child. You must establish the potential harm the child would suffer if custody or visitation is denied to persuade a judge to grant your petition.