Fairfax Visitation Lawyer

When couples separate, they are faced with the difficult task of developing a custody and visitation schedule that best serves the needs of their children. In many cases, the couple can ultimately agree on a schedule without the need for litigation. However, if they cannot jointly resolve these issues, they may seek court intervention. An experienced Fairfax visitation lawyer understands the different types of custody and visitation arrangements possible under Virginia law and can help protect parents’ right to spend quality time with their children.

The Difference Between Custody and Visitation

Custody refers to where the children reside the majority of the time, and visitation is the time the noncustodial parent spends with their children. Pursuant to the Code of Virginia §20-124.2, visitation may also be referred to as ‘parenting time.’ The parents may have ‘shared’ physical custody and spend relatively equal time with the children. However, if that type of schedule does not meet the children’s needs, one parent may have ‘primary’ custody, and the other parent would then have visitation. The visiting parent will generally be required to pay child support to the custodial parent to assist in caring for the children.

Determining Visitation in Virginia

When determining visitation for the noncustodial parent, Virginia judges may consider the following factors under the Code of Virginia § 20-124.3:

  • The children’s ages
  • The physical and mental health of the parents and the children
  • The relationship between the parents and each child, as well as the relationships between the siblings
  • The children’s needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs
  • The ability of each parent to support a close and loving relationship between the children and the other parent
  • The willingness of the parents to communicate with each other about the children
  • Whether there is any history of domestic violence or abuse within the family

The court may also rely on any other information it deems relevant to visitation. If the children are sufficiently mature enough to express an opinion, a judge may consider their preferences regarding the visitation schedule. In every visitation case, the final decision must be based on what visitation schedule will be in the children’s best interests. A skilled visitation attorney can explain the significance of these factors and the children’s preferences and how a judge may apply them in a contested visitation case.

Considerations When Developing a Specific Visitation Schedule

As parents negotiate a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent and the children, it is important to keep in mind how that schedule will impact their daily lives. Their school and daycare schedules, medical appointments, and extracurricular activities should all be considered. Additionally, the distance between the parents’ residences, how long the children will spend traveling back and forth between them, and the availability of the parents to accommodate this travel are essential factors. It may also benefit the children if the schedule reflects time with the noncustodial parent during the holidays, summer vacations, and the children’s birthdays.

Other Types of Visitation Rights

In Virginia, if an unmarried father seeks visitation with his children and the mother contests paternity, the father must establish his paternity before asking the court for visitation. Paternity may be established either through a voluntary acknowledgment or a DNA test.

Grandparents also have the right to file a petition for visitation. However, Virginia law generally gives parents the right to make the final decision regarding visitation between the children and their grandparents. To obtain a court order for visitation, grandparents must prove that the children will suffer ‘actual harm’ if they do not spend time with the grandparents. This is a difficult legal hurdle to overcome, and grandparents who have been denied visitation with their grandchildren may benefit by speaking with an experienced visitation attorney before filing a petition in court.

Call a Fairfax Visitation Attorney Right Away

Resolving child visitation disputes requires parents to act in their children’s best interests at all times. A Fairfax visitation lawyer could help you understand your legal options and the various visitation schedules, or parenting time, that may be available to you. Our firm’s experienced visitation attorneys can assist you in developing a visitation plan that will meet the needs of both you and your children.