Virginia Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The Virginia laws about custody agreements and plans are found in Chapter 6.1, Title 20 of the Code of Virginia.

Here are some guidelines from the law to help you make your custody agreement and plan.

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Joint and sole custody

You can have joint or sole custody arrangements in Virginia.

Joint custody means that both parents share legal custody of the child and are responsible for the care and control of the child. You can have joint custody even when the child lives primarily with one parent.

Joint physical custody means that both parents share the physical and custodial care of the child. The child doesn't have to spend equal amounts of time with each parent to have joint physical custody.

Sole custody means that one parent has the responsibility for the care and control of the child and the primary authority to make decisions concerning the child. When one parent has sole custody, the other parent usually has visitation.

If you have sole physical custody, you can still have joint legal custody.

Information to include in your custody agreement

Your custody agreement, also called a parenting plan, has information about how you and the other parent will share and divide the responsibilities of raising your child.

Your agreement can include:

  • Information about joint and sole custody
  • A custody and visitation schedule
  • A way to change the agreement as the child grows
  • A way for parents to resolve disputes about the agreement or schedule
  • Other provisions and stipulations about the custody arrangements
Factors that affect the best interest of your child

The court will only approve an agreement that is in the best interest of your child.

The court looks at the following when deciding what is best for the child:

  • The physical and mental health of the parents and the child
  • The ages of the parents and of the child
  • The child's changing developmental needs
  • The relationship that exists between each parent and the child
  • Each parent's ability to meet the emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the child
  • The child's relationships with siblings, peers, and extended family members
  • The role that each parent has played in the upbringing and care of the child
  • Each parent's ability support the child's contact and relationship with the other parent
  • Whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent visitation with the child
  • Each parent's ability to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child
  • Each parent's ability to cooperate and resolve disputes about the child
  • The reasonable preference of the child
  • Any history of family abuse or sexual abuse
  • Any other factors the court deems necessary and proper to the determination

You should also consider these factors as you make your agreement.

Mediation

When parents are not able to agree on a custody plan, a judge can order parents to attend mediation before they go to court. In mediation, you and the other parent meet with a neutral party who helps you come to an agreement.

The goal of mediation is to work out a plan that has a custody and visitation schedule, the arrangements for how the parents will care for the child, and a way for the parents to handle disputes in the future.

If parents are not able to make a plan in mediation, they will go to court.

Court

If you and the other parent can't negotiate your custody arrangements together or in mediation, you will have to go to court.

The court that handles custody and visitation matters is the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

You can prepare for court by making a proposed custody agreement or plan. The judge will listen to you and the other parent and then decide your custody arrangements. The judge may accept either parent's plan or the judge can create a new one.

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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.

Custody X Change is software that creates professional custody agreements and visitation schedules.

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