Custody and Visitation in Virginia Part 2

Child custody and visitation is a multi-step process in Virginia that starts with the determination of Venue and Jurisdiction. The next step in the process is filing the case. A case for custody or visitation can be filed one of two ways; in the Circuit Court as part of a divorce, or in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

     Custody and visitation can be decided two primary ways in the Circuit Court. The first is by agreement between the parties. An agreement can be reached either through meditation or working closely with your attorneys. Mediation is a court service that provides an impartial third person to listen to the concerns of both sides. The mediator will create an agreement that meets the needs of both sides. This allows for the parents to save time and money by not going to trial. Parents can ask for a mediator to be appointed to their case as part of the filing procedure.

     The second method of establishing custody and visitation in Circuit Court is through a contested hearing. Both sides will need to put on evidence at the hearing that will help the court to determine what is in "the best interests of the child". This is a rather technical phrase that takes into consideration a number of factors. A guardian ad litem may be appointed that will do an objective investigation to inform the court of what they think is in the best interest of the child. These trials usually last a number of days, and can include expert testimony, documents, and professionals who watch over the child.

     There is a wider variety of ways to handle custody and visitation in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Parents do not necessarily have to be married in order to file for custody. If parents are not married, then they should look to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Custody and visitation can be handled the same way as it is in Circuit Court; by an agreement between the parties or by a contested hearing to determine the best interests of the child. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court also allows for entrustment agreements. These agreements allow for a parent to give up their rights to a child voluntarily. A fourth way of handling child custody and visitation in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is through the adoption process. A child can be adopted by a new spouse through the courts. This method allows for an involuntary termination of the parental rights.

These are but a few of the means of determining child custody and visitation. If a couple is married, then they may want to go through the Circuit Court to determine the best way of handling the issue. If the couple is unmarried, then they will likely need to go to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.