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Child Custody Laws In Virginia By A Virginia Child Custody Lawyer

There are many different child custody laws in Virginia.  Each child custody case is unique and how the Virginia custody laws apply to your case is entirely dependent on the facts of your case.

If you are dealing with a child custody case in Virginia, it is critical that your Virginia child custody lawyer be aware of the different Virginia custody laws and how those laws apply to your case.

Virginia

Childcustody Laws Invirginia

If you are dealing with a child custody case in Virginia, contact the SRIS Law Group Virginia child custody attorneys for help.  Our custody lawyers have been helping clients with child custody case for many years and are experienced at helping clients obtain custody and visitation or modify custody/visitation.

The following are some of the child custody laws in Virginia:

Virginia Custody Laws

As used in this chapter:

“Joint custody” means (i) joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent, (ii) joint physical custody where both parents share physical and custodial care of the child, or (iii) any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody which the court deems to be in the best interest of the child.

“Person with a legitimate interest” shall be broadly construed and includes, but is not limited to grandparents, stepparents, former stepparents, blood relatives and family members provided any such party has intervened in the suit or is otherwise properly before the court. The term shall be broadly construed to accommodate the best interest of the child. A party with a legitimate interest shall not include any person (i) whose parental rights have been terminated by court order, either voluntarily or involuntarily, (ii) whose interest in the child derives from or through a person whose parental rights have been terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, including but not limited to grandparents, stepparents, former stepparents, blood relatives and family members, if the child subsequently has been legally adopted, except where a final order of adoption is entered pursuant to § 63.2-1241, or (iii) who has been convicted of a violation of subsection A of § 18.2-61, § 18.2-63, subsection B of § 18.2-366, or an equivalent offense of another state, the United States, or any foreign jurisdiction, when the child who is the subject of the petition was conceived as a result of such violation.

“Sole custody” means that one person retains responsibility for the care and control of a child and has primary authority to make decisions concerning the child.

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A. In any case in which custody or visitation of minor children is at issue, whether in a circuit or district court, the court shall provide prompt adjudication, upon due consideration of all the facts, of custody and visitation arrangements, including support and maintenance for the children, prior to other considerations arising in the matter. The court may enter an order pending the suit as provided in § 20-103. The procedures for determining custody and visitation arrangements shall insofar as practical, and consistent with the ends of justice, preserve the dignity and resources of family members. Mediation shall be used as an alternative to litigation where appropriate. When mediation is used in custody and visitation matters, the goals may include development of a proposal addressing the child’s residential schedule and care arrangements, and how disputes between the parents will be handled in the future.
B. In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either. The court shall give due regard to the primacy of the parent-child relationship but may upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence that the best interest of the child would be served thereby award custody or visitation to any other person with a legitimate interest. The court may award joint custody or sole custody.
C. The court may order that support be paid for any child of the parties. The court shall also order that support will continue to be paid for any child over the age of 18 who is (i) a full-time high school student, (ii) not self-supporting, and (iii) living in the home of the party seeking or receiving child support until such child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever first occurs. The court may also order the continuation of support for any child over the age of 18 who is (i) severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled, (ii) unable to live independently and support himself, and (iii) resides in the home of the parent seeking or receiving child support. In addition, the court may confirm a stipulation or agreement of the parties which extends a support obligation beyond when it would otherwise terminate as provided by law. The court shall have no authority to decree support of children payable by the estate of a deceased party. The court may make such further decree as it shall deem expedient concerning support of the minor children, including an order that either party or both parties provide health care coverage or cash medical support, or both.
D. In any case in which custody or visitation of minor children is at issue, whether in a circuit or district court, the court may order an independent mental health or psychological evaluation to assist the court in its determination of the best interests of the child. The court may enter such order as it deems appropriate for the payment of the costs of the evaluation by the parties.
E. The court shall have the continuing authority and jurisdiction to make any additional orders necessary to effectuate and enforce any order entered pursuant to this section or § 20-103 including the authority to punish as contempt of court any willful failure of a party to comply with the provisions of the order. A parent or other person having legal custody of a child may petition the court to enjoin and the court may enter an order to enjoin a parent of the child from filing a petition relating to custody and visitation of that child for any period of time up to 10 years if doing so is in the best interests of the child and such parent has been convicted of an offense under the laws of the Commonwealth or a substantially similar law of another state, the United States, or any foreign jurisdiction which constitutes (i) murder or voluntary manslaughter, or a felony attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any such offense, if the victim of the offense was a child of the parent, a child with whom the parent resided at the time the offense occurred, or the other parent of the child, or (ii) felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury, felony bodily wounding resulting in serious bodily injury, or felony sexual assault, if the victim of the offense was a child of the parent or a child with whom the parent resided at the time of the offense. When such a petition to enjoin the filing of a petition for custody and visitation is filed, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child pursuant to § 16.1-266.

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In determining best interests of a child for purposes of determining custody or visitation arrangements including any pendente lite orders pursuant to § 20-103, the court shall consider the following:

  1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs;
  2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
  3. The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;
  4. The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members;
  5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
  6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
  7. The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
  8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;
  9. Any history of family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228 or sexual abuse. If the court finds such a history, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and
  10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

The judge shall communicate to the parties the basis of the decision either orally or in writing.

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In any proceeding involving custody or visitation, the court shall include as a condition of any custody or visitation order a requirement that thirty days’ advance written notice be given to the court and the other party by any party intending to relocate and of any intended change of address, unless the court, for good cause shown, orders otherwise. The court may require that the notice be in such form and contain such information as it deems proper and necessary under the circumstances of the case.

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In this act:

“Child” means an individual who has not attained eighteen years of age.

“Child custody determination” means a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child. The term includes a permanent, temporary, initial, or modification order. The term does not include an order relating to child support or other monetary obligation of an individual.

“Child custody proceeding” means a proceeding in which legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child is an issue. The term includes a proceeding for divorce, separation, neglect, abuse, dependency, guardianship, paternity, termination of parental rights, and protection from domestic violence, in which the issue may appear. The term does not include a proceeding involving juvenile delinquency, contractual emancipation, or enforcement under Article 3 (§ 20-146.22 et seq.) of this chapter.
“Commencement” means the filing of the first pleading in a proceeding.

“Court” means a court of competent jurisdiction as determined by otherwise applicable Virginia law to establish, enforce, or modify a child custody determination or an entity authorized under the law of another state to establish, enforce or modify a child custody determination.

“Home state” means the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the state in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period.

“Initial determination” means the first child custody determination concerning a particular child.

“Issuing court” means the court that makes a child custody determination for which enforcement is sought under this act.

“Issuing state” means the state in which a child custody determination is made.

“Modification” means a child custody determination that changes, replaces, supersedes, or is otherwise made after a previous determination concerning the same child, whether or not it is made by the court that made the previous determination.

“Person” means an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, limited liability company, association, joint venture, government, governmental subdivision, agency, or instrumentality, public corporation, or any other legal or commercial entity.

“Person acting as a parent” means a person, other than a parent, who has (i) physical custody of the child or has had physical custody for a period of six consecutive months, including any temporary absence, within one year immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding and (ii) been awarded legal custody by a court or claims a right to legal custody under the laws of this Commonwealth.

“Physical custody” means the physical care and supervision of a child.

“State” means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

“Tribe” means an Indian tribe or band, or Alaskan Native village, which is recognized by federal law or formally acknowledged by a state.

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