Child Custody Laws in Virginia

By Lee Grayson

The custody laws in all states, including Virginia, consider the best interests of children under 18 years of age when making custody rulings. Often, the parents will come to an agreement about child custody. The judge then reviews that agreement and, in most circumstances, will turn it into a formal court order. More complex state custody challenges involve the legal determination of a biological parent and requests for emergency hearings to remove a child from a custodial parent or revoke parent visitation rights when abuse or violence threatens the child.

Best Interests of the Child

The best interests of children include the age of the child and parents and any physical or mental conditions affecting the relationship between the two. The determination also considers the needs, including emotional, of the child and the ability of each parent to meet the needs. Older children have the right to express a preference of custody to the court. The judge also has the discretion to consider the behavior of the parents when deciding custody, including past behavior of any abuse or improper influence of a parent in shaping the child's opinion of the other parent. Best interests also factor in any other sibling relationships and the past role the parent played in the child's life and upbringing.

Custody Types

Legal custody is the right to make decisions made concerning a child's education, religious affiliation and overall well being, including medical treatments. Physical custody involves the living arrangement for the child. Virginia courts have the option of assigning one or both parents legal custody, as well as allowing both parents some form of physical custody when this arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Courts can also award one parent sole custody, which means that parent has the power to make major decisions about the child and the responsibility to be the child’s primary caretaker.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


Child custody laws in Virginia also allow the court to regulate visitation between children and non-custodial parents. If one parent has sole custody, the other parent can have visitation rights, whereby that parent has unsupervised or supervised time with the child, depending on the court ruling, but doesn't have implied rights to make important decisions concerning the child's welfare, including medical treatment. Visitation rights in Virginia may include overnight or weekend visitation privileges for the parent without legal physical custody rights. Virginia legislature passed recommendations in 2007 to encourage visits between children and their incarcerated parents. These recommendations encourage fostering parent-child relationships for continued parental involvement after the parent's release from prison.

Fathers' Rights and Paternity

The Virginia Department of Social Services notes that establishing paternity builds self-esteem in children, establishes family identity, encourages shared parenting and helps determine health history. Declaring paternity also provides a legal relationship between the father and a child in court. This helps the court determine custody awards and visitation rights. Declaring paternity also provides legal protection and opportunities for children, including coverage by any medical insurance held by the father or potential benefits from the father's Social Security or veteran's benefits. Virginia recognizes putative fatherhood, a term used to describe unmarried, biological fathers and fathers in a child-parent relationship without any legal adoptive recognition. Virginia sponsors an online state putative father registry to provide fathers with notifications of court actions involving a child listed on the registry. The notifications allow fathers to attend custody and adoption hearings involving biological children.

Interstate Custody Issues

Virginia courts follow the guidelines established under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This act requires uniform jurisdiction and cooperative enforcement of custody and visitation laws among cooperating states. Virginia's participation mandates state courts recognition of child-custody rulings and legal visitation orders made by sister state courts that regulate current Virginia residents. The law also provides for a voluntary registry for Virginia parents to record legal custody agreements. This information becomes part of the national enforcement system for use if either parent fails to follow the custody agreements and leaves Virginia with the children.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Laws for Custody Battles in Kansas



Related articles

What Are Parental Rights in a Divorce?

Parental rights can change drastically during divorce proceedings. Before the court issues a custody order, you and your spouse maintain equal rights to care for your child on a daily basis and make major decisions regarding your child's health and welfare. Once a judge issues a temporary or permanent child custody order in a divorce, the court order establishes each parent's parental rights and responsibilities. These rights traditionally include legal custody and physical custody of a child.

Tennessee Law on Reversal of Legal Guardianship

According to Tennessee state law, a parent's right to privacy, which is protected by the state and federal constitutions, includes a parent's right to care for his children. However, various scenarios can prompt an order of guardianship by the court or short-term placement by the natural parent. Based on state statute, each county in Tennessee has developed its own procedure to petition for reversal of legal guardianship. Once the appropriate paperwork is turned in, a court date will be set at which time a judge will consider each party’s argument. The current custody agreement remains in effect until the court makes its ruling. Although procedural rules differ across the state, the application of case law by the courts remains consistent.

Joint Child Custody: How to Create Your Child Visitation Schedule

You have the power to negotiate a visitation schedule that works well for you. If you and your ex-partner agree to share joint child custody, you can generally create a child custody and visitation schedule with or without a court order. When you enter into the custody agreement, you are both bound by its terms. However, the agreement cannot legally be enforced until the court approves it and issues a child custody order.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Visitation Rights During Separation

No parent possesses a legal right to deny the other parent visitation rights when they are informally separated, yet ...

The Statutes on Visitation in Virginia

The Virginia statutes on child visitation give the court broad discretion in ordering visitation for separated parents ...

Child Custody Laws in Pennsylvania for Infants

A divorce can be disruptive to children. In Pennsylvania, courts must base all custody decisions on what is found to be ...

Do You Need to Be Divorced to File for Custody in PA?

When parents split or decide to raise their children in separate homes, each parent may need to learn more about ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED