Most parents want to remain closely involved in the lives of their children following a divorce. Unfortunately, not every parent can be granted primary custody. Instead of splitting their time equally between two parents, children often live primarily with one parent or do some type of shared custody schedule that doesn’t divide time equally between two parents. If one parent is the primary custodian, the other parent is usually awarded a visitation or custodial time schedule, but the schedule can vary greatly. Under some circumstances, parents barely have any visitation/custodial time whatsoever, and their visits must be supervised at all times. In other situations, parents can have extensive visitation/custodial time. Whether you have been granted primary custody or not, it is important to understand how visitation works in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Of course, it is easier to pursue a positive legal outcome with the help of a qualified, experienced family law attorney in Virginia. Parents who are concerned about spending a small amount of time with their children after a divorce can work with an attorney to address these concerns. With the right approach, you may win extensive visitation time, continuing to play a central role in your child’s upbringing over the following years. Experienced divorce attorneys can also explain the various details of visitation in greater detail, allowing you to move forward in a confident manner.
Who Gets Visitation in Virginia?
In some cases, one parent is awarded primary physical custody of the children. This means that the children live with one parent and the other parent has less than 91 days (including overnights) a year with the children. Judges may order this kind of arrangement for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they want to keep the children in the original family home because it feels more familiar and comforting to them. Maybe they believe that one parent is better suited to the role of primary caregiver. Perhaps the judge has simply decided that the children need to stay in their original neighborhood to maintain links with friends, schools, and sporting teams.
Whatever the case may be, the parent who is not granted primary custody often struggles to maintain a close bond with their children. This is simply due to the fact that they are spending less time with their children. However, these non-primary custodians are still encouraged to play a significant role in their children’s lives. In fact, most judges take the position that children benefit from spending considerable time with both parents. In order to ensure that the non-custodial parent continues to maintain bonds with their children, Virginia judges give these parents visitation/custodial rights.
What are Visitation Rights?
Visitation time can vary based on the specific circumstances of each divorce. If the non-custodial parent has shown that they can be a caring, responsible parent, their visitation time will likely be extensive. These parents often spend plenty of time with their children over the weekend, during school breaks, and in the summer. A typical visitation schedule might involve children living with the non-custodial parent each weekend or every other weekend. There may even be mid-week sleepovers or dinner visits.
Strict, clear schedules are recommended when approaching visitation in Virginia. Although some parents prefer to keep things flexible, disputes can easily arise if one parent feels that they are not seeing the children enough. This is why it helps to clearly figure out exactly when children will spend time with each parent at any given time. These custodial schedules should be laid out in writing.. A good way to approach this is to create a family calendar that breaks down visitation in a day-by-day manner.
Depending on whether parents have joint physical custody or not, different schedules may be preferable. For those who have joint physical custody and live close together, the child can move between homes every few days. Moving between homes on each alternating week may make more sense if parents live far apart from one another.
If one parent has primary custody, a popular option is the extended weekend schedule. This is when children leave the home of the primary custodian every Thursday or Friday afternoon, living with the non-custodial parent until Monday morning when school begins. Non-custodial parents can spend even more time with their children in a “4-3” schedule, which involves the child spending three days with them every week. Another option is the alternating weekend schedule, which gives the non-custodial parent time with their child every other weekend, plus one evening per week. Schedules can be set that work best for the children based on their needs, but it is always important to consider the number of transitions a child may have weekly or biweekly. The schedule should be set in such a way that allows a child to settle in without constantly being switched from home to home.
In certain situations, supervised visits may be ordered. This means that when a non-custodial parent visits with their children, they must be supervised by another adult, at a facility, or the primary custodian at all times. This is often required when there are concerns about the child’s safety. If there have been past instances of abuse, mental health issues, substance abuse, or other concerns, a judge may feel that a child should not be left alone with their non-custodial parent.
With all that said, it is rare for a non-custodial parent to completely lose all visitation rights whatsoever.
Things to Remember About Visitation Rights
Remember, a judge always considers a child’s best interests when making decisions about child custody. Your own personal wishes and desires mean very little in this situation if they don’t align with the child’s best interests. If you are intent on playing a central role in your child’s life following a divorce, you need to show the court why that will benefit your child. Do not show the court why it will benefit you.
Finally, you always have the ability to modify existing visitation agreements if you are not satisfied if there has been a material change in circumstances that warrants a modification from the date of the last order. Work with a qualified attorney, and you may be able to convince a judge to allow you to spend more time with your children. This is especially useful if your former spouse is preventing you from seeing your children in some way.
Enlist the Help of a Qualified Attorney Today
If you have been searching the Virginia area for a qualified, experienced family law attorney, look no further than NOVA Legal Professionals. We have extensive knowledge of how custody and visitation are handled, and we can recommend the best course of action according to your unique circumstances. We understand that for many parents, their children are the most important aspects of their lives. It makes sense to work with legal professionals as you approach this situation, and you can depend on us to help you in an effective, strategic manner. Reach out and book your consultation today, and we can develop an effective action plan together.
If you want to speak with one of our attorneys to discuss your case, reach out to us at any of our offices in Manassas, Prince William County, Fairfax, Fairfax County, or Stafford/Fredericksburg, locations to schedule.