Virginia Custody and Visitation Schedules
Your child custody and visitation schedule is important to you and to your child. Here's how to set up a Virginia visitation schedule.
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
One of the best ways to ensure a successful outcome in your child custody case is to use the law as a tool when creating your child visitation schedule.
The laws pertaining to child custody and visitation in the Commonwealth of Virginia can be found in Code of Virginia, Title 20, Domestic Relations.
The law defines the different types of custody in the state, offers an alternative to litigation, and lists the factors the court considers when ruling on custody arrangements.
If you become familiar with Virginia custody laws, you will know what to expect in court and what the court expects from you. This should give you an advantage and improve the chances of your child visitation schedule being approved by the court.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, once a child custody dispute is brought before the court, the court, (whether district or circuit), has the authority to enter an order regarding the custody and visitation of children (Va. Code § 20-124.2).
However, as parents, you have the right to create your own child custody and visitation schedule. If you are able to agree with the other parent on custody and visitation times, things will be much more amiable and you will have a schedule everyone is happy with.
If you are having a hard time agreeing on your parenting arrangements, there are resources available to assist you.
When appropriate, you may attend mediation. Mediation may be used as an alternative to litigation and parents are encouraged to work together to create a child visitation schedule that addresses the child's care arrangements with the help of the non-partial mediator.
You may also seek assistance from a private counselor, clergy, or any other neutral party you think may be able to help.
It is in everyone's best interests if you are able to work out a schedule and agree to it. Otherwise your parenting arrangements and custody schedule will be made by the court.
A Virginia child visitation schedule should consist of a residential schedule, a holiday schedule, and a vacation schedule:
- The residential schedule should provide the child with stability and security, and allow the child to spend as much time with each parent as is feasible and in the child's best interest, on a regular routine basis. This will help your child feel secure.
- The holiday schedule takes precedence over the residential schedule and should allow the child equitable time with both parents for holidays, birthdays, and special occasions, such as Mother's Day and Father's Day.
- The vacation schedule does not have to be date specific, as it is difficult to predict the set dates and times vacation will be taken, but it may include provisions such as the length of the vacation times, how much advanced notice should be given, whether the vacation time shall be uninterrupted or if the other parent shall be given access to the child, and whether or not the parents may remove the child from the state or the country.
Even when a parent does not have physical custody of the child, he or she is usually entitled to reasonable visitation with the child.
In the State of Virginia, a common "reasonable" visitation schedule consists of the non-custodial parent having the child every other weekend, from Friday evening until Sunday evening. A weekly mid-week visit, for a few hours in the evening, may also be included.
Holidays are divided up during the year and the parents alternate the holiday schedule during even and odd years.
The non-custodial parent typically has the child for extended periods of time during winter, spring, and summer breaks.
When determining custody of a child, the court's primary concern is not the gender of the parents, their financial resources, or the reason for their divorce. The main concern of the courts is the health and well-being of the child, and the child's best interests (Va. Code § 20-124.2).
The court considers all relevant information, including the following factors, when ruling on child custody cases (Va. Code § 20-124.3):
- The child's age, mental condition, physical condition, and changing developmental needs
- The age, mental and physical condition, and fitness of each parent
- The existing relationships between each parent and the child
- Whether or not a parent has had positive involvement in the child's life
- The ability of each parent to meet the child's physical, mental, and emotional needs
- The needs of the child and the child's attachment to any siblings, relatives, and people of importance to the child
- The role each parent has played, (and would potentially play), in raising the child
- The likeliness of each parent to foster and encourage a positive relationship between the child and other parent
- Whether or not a parent has prevented the child from visiting the other parent, (without just cause)
- The capacity of each parent to maintain a close, loving, nurturing, affectionate relationship with the child
- The ability of the parents to work together, cooperate, communicate with each other, resolve disputes, and make joint decisions regarding matters affecting the child
- The wishes of the child as to custody, as long as the child is of a sufficient age and maturity level, and would like to voice a preference
- Any history of family abuse or any other conduct that may harm the child
- Any other factors the court feels are relevant
Whether or not you are able to reach an agreement with the other parent regarding your Virginia child visitation schedule will have a significant impact on your child. Every child is unique, and every situation is different.
A child visitation schedule should meet the child's specific needs and by designed to provide the child with the optimal amount of time with each parent.
A general, standardized court ordered schedule may work for some families, but if you feel your child needs something different, you should make every effort to set your differences aside and work with the other parent to create the best child visitation schedule possible.
The top twenty cities in Virginia (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Arlington, Richmond, Newport News, Hampton, Alexandria, Portsmouth, Roanoke, Suffolk, Lunchburg, Dale City, Reston, Centreville, Annandale, Burke, Chantilly, Danville, Harrisonburg.