Child custody refers to the care, control and maintenance of a child. There are many similarities among child custody laws across state lines. The principal reason for this is the adoption of the Uniform Child Custody Act, which assists law enforcement in each state. Under Virginia child custody laws, parents can have joint custody and grandparents can have the right to visit the child. In addition, the court places great importance on the wishes and the best interests of the child in deciding who gets custody.
The noncustodial parent has a legal right to visit the child unless it is decided that this would be harmful to the child. One such instance is when there has been a conviction of the noncustodial parent for child abuse. If the parents cannot arrive at an agreement concerning visitation, the judge will order a schedule of days and times when the noncustodial parent can visit the child
In Virginia, there are three types of child custody:
- Joint legal custody — both parents are responsible for the care of the child, irrespective of where the child resides.
- Joint physical custody — the parents have physical custody of the child. They have an understanding in which each parent has the child during alternate weeks or months.
- Sole custody — Only one parent has physical custody and the power to make daily decisions concerning the child. In this situation, the non-custodial parent may attempt to obtain visitation rights.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act has been adopted by almost every state, including Virginia. The law mandates that state officials acknowledge and assist with the enforcement of child custody orders from other states. Such legislation was enacted with the objective of preventing non-custodial parents from kidnapping their children and taking them to another state.