Visitation Rights in Virginia

Child custody and visitation are typically determined as part of a divorce or legal separation, unless the parents are unmarried. Custody generally refers to where the child resides most of the time (unless it's a split custody arrangement), whereas visitation refers to time allotted for the noncustodial parent to spend with their child. Unless there are good reasons to deny visitation (such as a history of abuse), courts typically assume the child's best interests are met when they spend time with both parents.

Visitation rights in Virginia are similar to those of other states. In addition to whether a child should have visitation time with the noncustodial parent, it will also consider the practical impact of any visitation schedule. When working out a schedule, courts will look at the following:

  • School and/or day care schedules;
  • Child's extracurricular activities and medical appointments;
  • Distance traveled for visitation;
  • Availability of transportation and willingness of parents to share in this obligation;
  • Each parent's work schedule; and
  • Recognition of, and fairness regarding, "special" days such as birthdays, weekends, and holidays.

Visitation Rights in Virginia: The Basics

If you're seeking visitation with your child, you likely don't have the time to wade through the legalese found in most statutes. The following summary of the law will help you better understand your visitation rights and procedures for establishing visitation in Virginia.

Statutes

Virginia Code Section 20-124.1, et seq. (Custody and Visitation Arrangements for Minor Children)

Factors Considered When Determining Visitation

Virginia family courts consider the following factors when determining visitation arrangements (all with an eye toward the best interests of the child):

  1. Age and physical/mental condition of the child;
  2. Age and physical/mental condition of each parent;
  3. Relationship between each parent and each child;
  4. Needs of the child (including various relationships with siblings, peers, etc.);
  5. The role each parent plays in the child's upbringing;
  6. The willingness/ability of each parent to support the child's relationship with the other parent;
  7. The willingness/ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and to cooperate and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
  8. Reasonable preference of the child (subject to court's discretion);
  9. Any history of domestic violence other such abuse; and
  10. Any other factors deemed relevant by the court.

Unmarried Fathers and Visitation

Paternity must be established (either through voluntary acknowledgment or a DNA test, if contested) in order to petition for visitation with the child.

Those who believe they're the father but haven't yet established paternity may sign up with the Virginia Putative Father Registry; allowing for notification of any adoption or termination of parental rights proceedings

Grandparent Visitation Rights

Virginia courts have held that the child's parents or legal guardians -- as long as they're deemed fit -- have final say over whether grandparents may visit their grandchildren.

Grandparents denied visitation may petition the court (either on their own or through a petition filed by the noncustodial parent). However, courts will only award visitation against the parents' wishes if it's clear that the child would suffer as a result of being denied visitation.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Visitation Rights in Virginia: Related Resources

Get a Handle on Your Visitation Rights: Contact a Virginia Lawyer

Visitation is an important aspect of child custody, providing an opportunity for a child to bond with their noncustodial parent. But the process can seem overwhelming to those who aren't legal professionals. An experienced Virginia family law attorney can help you understand and protect your visitation rights.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.