When parents split up, one of the issues they must decide is visitation with their children.
Although these decisions are sometimes made by the parents, they are generally enforced, and often mandated, through Virginia child custody laws.
Virginia child custody laws and visitation are found in Chapter 6.1, Title 20 of the Code of Virginia. To break it down, here is a helpful overview in our Guide to Virginia Child Visitation Laws.
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody
In joint custody, both parents retain responsibility for the care and control of their child. In sole custody, one person retains this responsibility and has primary authority to make decisions concerning the child.
Court-Ordered Custody and Visitation
As a guide to Virginia child custody and visitation laws, in the case of a minor child, the court may determine custody and visitation arrangements, taking into account as its primary consideration the best interest of the child. It will use procedures considering practical and just arrangements to ensure frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, using procedures to preserve the dignity and resources of family members. There is no favoring of either parent for custody arrangements.
A list of determining factors for arranging visitation can be found in the Code of Virginia.
Unmarried Parents Visitation
Even when an unmarried couple splits up, each parent still has visitation rights under Virginia child visitation laws for unmarried couples. Through a court decree, a child custody order will ensure a parent’s rights to make decisions about their child and have their child live with them.
Under Virginia’s child visitation laws, the court takes the best interest of the child into account, although it favors the primary caretaker, who is often the mother. To obtain visitation rights, the father must prove paternity, and can do so through a genetic or DNA test, or through an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) statement.
Terminated Parental Rights and Visitation
Since it is generally in the best interest of the child to be in the care of biological parents, it is difficult to terminate parental rights without serious and just cause.
However, in cases where the child is neglected or in danger, the courts may decide that termination of parental rights is necessary. Once a child is removed from a parent’s physical custody, that child is placed into either temporary or permanent care through the state, in the form of a group home, institutional setting, or with a relative or non-relative.
Open Adoption Visitation
Just because a parent’s visitation rights have been terminated, does not always mean a cessation of contact with the child. If adopted, the adoptive parents may allow the biological parent(s) to see the child, or remain in contact through some form of open adoption. Usually the visitation agreement in such case is made between the adoptive and biological parents and not by the courts.
Subsidized Guardianship Program
A subsidized guardianship program can also allow a parent with terminated visitation rights to see their child. Through this program, the child is placed with a guardian or other relative until they reach legal age, with parental visitation rights under Virginia child visitation laws.
Reinstatement of Parental Rights
A third way to acquire visitation is through reinstatement of parental rights. If a parent can show the courts that they have the ability to care for their child, he or she can petition the court originally termination the parental rights to reinstate them. The court will make the final decision after reviewing the case. Under Federal law, parents have up to 15 months to prove their capability.
Contact Pond Law Group
We hope this guide to Virginia child visitation laws has been helpful.
For questions about Virginia child visitation laws, contact your family law attorney, like Pond Law Group. We can help answer your questions, work out visitation rights, or file an appeal to reinstate terminated parental visitation rights.