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Virginia Child Custody Laws

An Overview of Virginia Child Custody Laws

Child custody laws are very similar from state to state, mainly due to adoption of the Uniform Child Custody Act, which helps enforcement efforts across state lines. Virginia child custody laws allow for joint custody and grandparent visitation rights, while the court process gives significant weight to the child's own wishes before determining custody.

Child custody, visitation, and child support issues are decided in Virginia's Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts. The noncustodial parent is legally entitled to visitation with his or her child, unless it is determined that this would be detrimental to the child (for example, if the noncustodial parent has been convicted of child abuse). The judge will order a visitation schedule if the parents are unable to agree on one.

Types of Child Custody Available in Virginia

As in virtually every other state, the court will consider the child's best interests when determining custody. Virginia allows the following types of custody:

  • Joint Legal Custody - Regardless of where the child actually lives (or spends most of her time), this is when both parents retain responsibility for the care and authority of the child.
  • Joint Physical Custody - An arrangement in which the parents share physical custody and care of the child (usually by alternating weeks, months, etc.).
  • Sole Custody - Just one parent has physical custody and the authority to make day-to-day decisions pertaining to the child; the non-custodial parent in this arrangement may seek visitation.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

This is a piece of model legislation that has been adopted by nearly every state in the U.S., including Virginia. Essentially, the law requires state officials to recognize and help enforce child custody orders from other states. These laws were passed in order to prevent noncustodial parents from abducting their children across state lines.

The basics of Virginia child custody laws are highlighted in the box below. See FindLaw's Child Custody section, including How Child Custody Decisions are Made, to learn more.

Code Section 20-107.2, 20-124.1 et seq.
Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted 1979
Joint Custody an Option? Yes, §§20-124.2(B)
Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized? Yes, §20-124.1 & §16.1-241
Child's Own Wishes Considered? Yes

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Virginia child custody attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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