Virginia Visitation Lawyer

Most parents’ priority when they live separately from their co-parent is preserving their relationship with their children. Negotiating child custody and visitation issues is often the most emotionally charged and stressful aspect of a separation or divorce.

Consult an experienced family attorney for information on how a court views these issues. Judges strongly prefer couples to design a custody and visitation arrangement that works for their family, although they will decide when the parents cannot agree. Understanding the factors courts consider when awarding child custody and visitation could help a couple reach an agreement.

A Virginia visitation lawyer has wisdom gained from experience. They could advise you through the process and help you create a visitation plan that allows you to be an active parent to your children.

Only Legal Parents Have Visitation Rights

When a married couple has a child, both spouses are the child’s legal parents. In other situations, parents might need to take specific steps to establish their legal parental rights.

When an unmarried woman gives birth, she is the child’s only legal parent unless she and the father complete an Acknowledgement of Paternity Form. If they do not sign the form, the father will not have visitation rights unless he submits a petition to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to establish paternity. A mother seeking child support also could establish paternity through a court proceeding or ask the Division of Child Support Enforcement to open a case. Once a man has established his paternity, he has the right to seek visitation, which a court will grant if it is in the child’s best interests.

Same-sex couples who do not adopt each other’s biological or adopted children could be deprived of visitation rights if the couple later breaks up. Same-sex couples raising children should consult a well-practiced Virginia visitation attorney to preserve each partner’s right to a continuing relationship with the child. Similarly, stepparents could lose the right to continuing contact with children if they do not adopt the stepchild.

Essential Concepts in Custody and Visitation

The term custody has two meanings. Legal custody means the right to make important decisions for a child, such as the religion they will practice, where they go to school, and the healthcare they receive. Physical custody means where the child resides from day to day.

Virginia allows joint custody, meaning both parents share decision-making responsibilities and must work together to decide important issues. Shared custody also sometimes means the children share time with both parents equally or nearly equally. More often, one parent has primary physical custody, and the courts designate them as the custodial parent, while the other parent has visitation rights.

Courts in Virginia do not discriminate based on gender, and courts do not favor mothers over fathers when deciding who has primary physical custody. When the court must decide where children will live, they consider numerous factors to help them determine the arrangement that best serves the children.

The Child’s Best Interests Guide Visitation Decisions

The law requires judges to favor children’s well-being over their parents’ when making decisions affecting children. Judges try to ensure a child’s environment is stable, and supports their physical, emotional, and intellectual development. When judges make custody decisions or review parenting plans, they strive to allow for as much contact with the non-custodial parent as possible, given practical considerations.

Virginia Code § 20-124.2 allows the judge to limit parental visitation or require that it be supervised. These situations occur most frequently when a parent has a history of:

  • Family violence
  • Sexual abuse of children
  • Unmanaged mental health issues
  • Substance abuse problems

Get in touch with a skilled lawyer in Virginia if the idea of supervised visitation has come up in negotiations over custody. A parent must have specific and verifiable concerns to support a request for supervised visitation.

Contact a Virginia Visitation Attorney for Legal Assistance

If you and your child’s co-parent are living apart, consult a Virginia visitation lawyer to learn about your rights to visitation. They could inform you about the legal process and help you develop a parenting plan.

Protect your relationship with your children by seeking legal advice. Call today to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.