Even when divorced couples can peacefully come to an agreement about financial matters, child custody and visitation is still often an emotionally loaded subject. Virginia laws are designed to handle matters of child custody and visitation in such a way that each parent can spend time with the children and participate meaningfully in decisions about the children’s future. Here are some frequently asked questions about child custody and visitation in Virginia.
Q: Which Court Handles Child Custody Cases?
A: It depends. If the parents were never married to each other, then the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court has jurisdiction. If a couple is trying to determine a child custody and visitation arrangement as part of their divorce, the matter belongs to the Circuit Court.
Q: How do Judges in Virginia Determine Custody Arrangements?
A: Judges consider many factors in determining how much time the children will spend with each parent, with the goal of achieving an arrangement that is in the best interest of the children. They consider the relationship that each parent currently has with the child, as well as the parents’ ability to attend to the children’s physical and emotional needs. If the children are old enough to voice their preferences about how to divide their time between their parents, then judges also take the children’s requests into account. Children who are at least 14 years old almost always have a say about with which parent they live, but judges also sometimes seek the input of younger children, even as young as 7 years old.
Q: What is Supervised Visitation?
A: In certain circumstances, courts will require a court-appointed case worker to be present at one parent’s visits with the child. This happens when there is evidence that the child would be in danger if he or she spent time alone with the parent, such as if there is a history of family violence. Sometimes supervised visits take place at a specialized facility near the courthouse.
Q: Is it Possible to Change a Custody Arrangement?
A: A judge sets the terms of child custody and visitation at the time of the divorce by issuing a Child Custody Order, and only a judge can change them, namely by issuing a new order. The reasons for doing this would be that a major change in one parent’s circumstances has taken place. For example, the judge might issue a new order if one parent remarries or gets convicted of a crime, or if a parent who was a student at the time of the divorce graduates and gets a full-time job. If you wish to change your custody circumstances, you must file a Motion to Amend or Review Order; it is the judge who has the final decision.
Q: How do You Enforce Custody and Visitation?
A: If your former spouse is not abiding by the terms of the , which specifies the visitation schedule, you can file a Motion for Show Cause Summons.
Navigating child custody and visitation after a divorce can be confusing and intimidating. The attorneys of Ferguson, Rawls & Raines are here for you. Contact us today for the help you need in this difficult time.