Child Custody and Visitation

Child custody and visitation matters are governed by the “best interests of the child” standard. To help courts determine the best interests of a child, the Code of Virginia sets forth enumerated factors that a judge must consider when deciding custody and visitation disputes. The factors are designed to focus the court’s inquiry on which parent is best suited to meet the needs of a child, rather than on which parent has behaved better or worse as a spouse.

Custody and visitation issues arise in the context of a divorce, arise between unmarried parties, or even involve disputes between a natural parent or parents and third parties. Courts have the authority to determine legal custody, (the right to make or participate in major decisions related to the child, such as healthcare, education, and discipline); the authority to determine physical custody (with whom the child will reside) which may be sole or shared; and the authority to determine visitation with the child. Courts also have broad power to decide ancillary issues related to custody and visitation, including transportation responsibilities for visitation, the availability of school and health records, and other issues which may be reasonably related to the interests of the child.

The following are some common legal and factual issues related to child custody and visitation:

  • Where should a petition for custody and/or visitation be filed?
  • Do the preferences of the child or children matter for purposes of deciding custody?
  • How are custody and visitation matters handled when one parent lives in a different state?
  • Do grandparents have a right to visitation with grandchildren?
  • Does an award of sole custody terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial parent?
  • Under what circumstances can a prior custody and/or visitation order be changed?
  • How does prior family abuse affect custody and visitation determinations?
  • Does a custodial parent need permission from the court or the other parent to relocate with the child to a different city or state?

To view statutory law relevant to custody and visitation, follow this link to Code Sections

To view case law relevant to custody and visitation, follow this link to Case Finder

To obtain legal advice concerning custody and visitation or other family law issues, please contact Raynor & Farmer, P.C.