Custody, visitation and support is about the time schedule that divorced parents work out and the way that their legal rights and responsibilities are divided between them. In Virginia, the court that handles the matters associated with custody, visitation and support is the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, or J&DR. In order to get the process started, parents must complete the paperwork through their local court services unit of that court.
If the parents are going through a divorce at the same time, the Circuit Court can handle the divorce as well as custody and support (for the parent as well as for the child). If the case comes before the J&DR court, the parent will file for divorce in the Circuit Court, requesting that custody, visitation and support be resolved as part of the divorce and then there will be a hearing within 21 days in the Circuit Court.
What happens next?
Once the divorce is resolved in the Circuit Court, the case concerning custody, visitation and support will be dismissed in the J&DR and will be heard only in the Circuit Court. Once the case is resolved, it will be sent back to the J&DR and all matters concerning custody, visitation and support will be filed with the J&DR exclusively.
Is mediation an option for custody, visitation and support?
Yes, mediation is definitely an option. In fact, families are encouraged to try mediation to resolve their custody, visitation and support issues through mediation first. If they can come up with a plan that works for all of them through mediation, it is best to avoid ever having to go to court.
Once the parents have established the plan, the parents, who were required to become as educated as possible about what to do, can take advantage of helpful resources. The Parent Education page is a helpful guide that the state offers to parents in such a situation.
What can I expect when formulating a custody and visitation plan?
If you were unable to resolve your parenting issues with your co-parent through mediation and do end up in court, there are several factors that the court will consider when ordering a custody and visitation plan.
- The child’s physical and mental status. The court will also take into consideration the needs of the child as they grow.
- The parents’ physical and mental status.
- The relationship that each parent shares with the child. When thinking about the relationships, the court will take into consideration the influence that each parent has over the child (positive or negative) and that parent’s particular involvement with the child, and whether each parent is able to meet all of the child’s needs.
- The child’s needs, including positive relationships with siblings, friends and other family members.
- The part that each parent plays now and in the future in the child’s life and whether the parent(s) can care for the child properly.
- Whether each parent is supportive of the relationship that the child shares with the other parent.
- Whether each parent continues to maintain a close relationship with the child.
- The child’s choice of parent.
- Any existing abuse in the family.
- Any other factors that should be considered, in the eyes of the court.
Please understand that if you already have an established order for custody, visitation and support, the only way that you will be able to get that order modified by the court is if something has developed that is of major consequence.
Solid support from a Virginia family law attorney
Divorce and family law matters concerning the child are often complicated. The legal advice of a knowledgeable Virginia family law attorney may make a tremendous difference to your case and may help you to navigate an-often confusing process while helping you to protect your rights at the same time. The outcome that you are hoping to achieve will be one that gives everyone involved peace of mind and hope for a brighter future and your attorney can help you to accomplish that.