A parent who does not have custody of a child (also called a noncustodial parent) in Virginia will usually have a right to visitation with the child, even where the parents were never married. However, exercising this right may require the parent to obtain a court order. Below, we provide a brief overview of the child visitation laws in the state of Virginia.
The Difference Between Custody and Visitation
Both parents of a child have a right to seek custody of their child. There are two forms of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make important decisions on behalf of the child. Physical custody addresses who the child will reside with following the parties’ separation. Both legal custody and physical custody may be awarded to one parent (sole legal custody or sole physical custody) or to both parents (joint legal custody or joint physical custody). If exercising joint physical custody, both parties share in the custodial care of the child.
Visitation typically enters into the picture when there is sole physical custody given to one parent. In that case, the court will award visitation to the noncustodial parent, except when doing so proves adverse to the best interests of the child.
Visitation Decisions are Focused on the Child’s Needs, Not the Parent’s
Parents are free to work out a visitation schedule that best suits the schedule of each parent and submit the agreement to the court for approval. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, then the court will hear evidence presented by both parents as to why his or her proposed schedule is in the best interest of the child. Barring any issues that would prevent a court from ordering visitation, such as substance abuse or child abuse, then the court will award a visitation schedule based on what it believes is in the child’s best interest.
The court can dictate a specific visitation schedule and can also require that visitation by a parent be supervised if there are concerns regarding the child’s emotional and physical safety. Although Virginia courts are motivated to provide ongoing contact between a child and both parents, the courts will base all visitation decisions on the best interests of the child, and not on the emotional needs or desires of the parent.
Some of the factors the Virginia courts will balance in determining what visitation arrangement (if any) and schedule is in the best interests of the child include:
- The age and developmental needs of the child
- The ability of each parent to provide a healthy, non-threatening environment for the child
- The willingness of the parents to cooperate with each other and the court
- The schedules of the parents and child (e.g. day care, school, extracurriculars, work, etc.)
- The ability to provide ongoing contact between the child and each parent
Get Legal Guidance on Your Visitation Issues
At Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, we will guide through all of your questions regarding visitation, and help you work towards a favorable outcome in your family law matter. To schedule a consultation with one of our Virginia family law attorneys, contact Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC at 540.642.1766.