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Child Visitation in Virginia
Under Virginia law, both parents have the equal right to physical possession of a child whether they are married or not. As more and more research is conducted on the subject, courts are taking notice of the importance of a child having meaningful access to both of his or her parents.
At Graham Law Firm, PLLC, we know that your children are of the utmost importance to you. You want to protect them and make sure that they grow up in a loving and stable environment. We help parents fight for the visitation rights they deserve and to fight against visitation that would not serve your children’s best interests.
Contact us to set up a confidential consultation regarding child custody or visitation or call us at 703-443-9360.
Child Custody Laws in Virginia
While courts traditionally favored mothers because they were often the main caretaker of the child, Virginia law does not provide a preference. Shared physical custody of a child is not assumed in Virginia. When a judge makes a determination regarding custody matters, he or she considers physical as well as legal custody. Physical custody refers to which parent the child will live with and spend the most time with. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions regarding the child, such as decisions pertaining to his or her health, education and religion.
Many visitation rights are born out of a child custody case. Each parent may want primary custody of the child. The party who does not win primary custody often gets visitation rights.
When the court evaluates whom to grant child custody, it considers a number of factors, including:
- The role that each parent has had with the child
- The age of the child
- The mental condition of the child
- The child’s preference
- The child’s needs
- The child’s best interests
- The willingness of each parent to actively support contact between the child and the other parent
- History of family abuse
- History of illegal drug use
- Whether either parent is living with someone to whom he or she is not married
- Criminal history
- Founded complaints to Child Protective Services
- Civil commitment or mental health problems
- Impairments that would impede a party’s ability to care for the child
A Virginia judge is required to ensure that children have regular and frequent contact with their parents. Parents who can cooperate may be given liberal and reasonable visitation. Contested cases often result in one parent being given visitation at specific times.
Petitioning for Visitation
Visitation rights are not automatic. The parent requesting visitation must petition the court for these rights. He or she files a petition with the Court Services Unit of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. The proper court is the one that has jurisdiction over the county where the child has resided for the last six months.
Both parents are required under Virginia law to take a parenting education class if the case is contested. The petition is usually heard within a few weeks of its filing date. The judge may enter a temporary order regarding visitation at the hearing and then set another hearing for several months down the line.
The judge has wide discretion in determining issues related to the child. He or she may appoint an attorney specifically for the child, called a Guardian Ad Litem. He or she may also order the Department of Social Services to complete home studies on the home environment of each parent.
Northern Virginia’s Trusted Divorce Lawyers
Our firm has received recognition for our acumen in mediation and arbitration, as respected lawyers in our area, and as one of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Law Firms each year since 2011. We also offer step-parent adoption counsel. When you are in search of mediation for the child support process, seek out Graham Law Firm, PLLC, Northern Virginia’s preferred mediation specialists.
Call Graham Law Firm, PLLC at 703-443-9360 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.